We've all had days where we would rather do anything else other than our jobs. And on those days, your quality of work crashes, your attention to detail suffers, and it's hard to drag yourself to your desk. The real problem, though, is when you start feeling this way every day. The unique challenge of burnout when you work from home is that you're missing the element of social pressure in an office that would usually force you to stop phoning it in. Without someone to look over your shoulder, it's easy to let negativity drag on too long. Luckily, there are a few ways you can tweak your routine to avoid (or alleviate) burnout as a remote worker. In the end, it comes down to changes that fall into three categories: making room for a non-work life, taking care of yourself, and using strategies that make work less of a grind.
1. Set Boundaries
The biggest source of burnout is feeling overworked. The fact is, productivity drops off sharply after 50 hours a week. If you're working more than that, you're setting yourself up for burnout, errors, and unhappiness. But sometimes it's not just the quantity of hours. Feeling like you have to be available to jump on work at any time can be draining. We all benefit from stepping away from work completely. Set boundaries for your work life. Decide what times of day and week are off-limits and enforce it. Set clear expectations with your clients or your employer. Communicate about the time you're available to work, and if it becomes necessary to defend your new policy, explain that in order to dedicate your energy to them during your "on" time, you need to completely unplug during your "off" time. Disable work communication when you're not on the clock (even more important for vacations). That can mean having separate devices or building a virtual firewall. If it's not the hours that are getting you down, consider where else you might need to set boundaries. Are you expected to work at a pace that's unsustainable? Are you handling too many clients? Giving away free labor? Saying yes to every request when you should be saying no? Pinpoint the problem, and then find a way to fix it.
2. Work With Your Biorhythms, Not Against Them
We all have a particular time of day when we're most productive. Whether you're a morning person, a night owl, or one of the oft-ignored "afternoon people," you should save your heaviest lifting for when you're most alert and on the ball. Of course, you'll have to work outside of that time—you just want to be strategic about the type of work you do in lower-energy periods. Doing your hardest tasks when you're the most tired will multiply the effort required, so a little data collection on your own productivity can go a long way to increasing your efficiency and making your day less of a slog.
3. Make Sure to Exercise
You'd be surprised how effective a half-hour of cardio on a workday can be—and as a remote worker, you don't have to worry about carrying a gym bag to the office or making yourself presentable in a locker room afterwards. Workday exercise is especially helpful if you're struggling with anxiety about work. When you start to feel overwhelmed, shut down work and work OUT instead. Exercise will clear your mind and body of all your bottled-up energy, and you can come back with raised endorphins and a more positive outlook.
4. Remember to Eat
When you're in an office, you have natural cues happening around you for lunch. When you're isolated at home, it can be easy to overlook the time. Your productivity lags and you get a massive headache before you realize you haven't eaten since breakfast (if you even remembered to eat before work). Establish a routine—make breakfast before you touch your workspace, clear a work-free period for lunch, and try to grab mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. Set reminders if you have to. If you've got a long day, clear more time for a dinner break. Your brain is a machine that runs on food. You wouldn't expect your car to drive on empty, so make sure you also fuel your own tank.
5. Take Additional Breaks
So, we've already covered some reasons to get up from your desk: exercise, regular meals, an established knock-off time. Those shouldn't be the only times you get up and move around, though. Take additional breaks as it makes sense. Whenever you feel your energy or attention lagging, get up and find something else to do for 5 to 15 minutes. There are plenty of options, once you've mentally checked off the need to exercise or eat. Take a walk around the block. Share some QT with your pets. Water your plants. Do a few quick chores. Consume your favorite media. As long as you're mindful to keep your break from turning into procrastination, you'll find that the time away will lift your mood and let you focus more effectively when you're back on the clock.
6. Change Scenery
Sometimes your brain just needs a change. This could mean finding a place to work outside your home, but it's also possible to rotate "workstations" inside your home. Your desk could be your place for peak productivity, but you can unplug and move to the sofa if your back hurts, or go out on the deck if you need some vitamin D.
7. Get. Out.
It's so easy to become a hermit and experience burnout when you work from home. Your coworkers are virtual, your workspace is your home space, and you might get through an entire day of not stepping out your door (or speaking face-to-face with other adults). You need to get out of your house. Seriously. On a daily basis, walk out the door. This could involve running errands, going somewhere for lunch, or taking your laptop to the public library, but at least once a week, make the outing something you enjoy. Take your kids to the park, take your dog for a run, get a drink with friends, or find a volunteer gig you love. Make a conscious effort to do things that bring you joy outside of work, and it will pay dividends on making your work life more pleasant.