How to: Prevent Remote Work Burnout
Remote work is life-changing, isn’t it? I grew up thinking that it wasn't a real possibility, but it started becoming more popular while I was getting settled into my career, and then, as you know, 2020 really set it into motion. I myself have worked remotely in a variety of settings — from a hybrid one-day-a-week setting, to full time, to contracted hourly work. They all have pros and cons, but the one thing they have in common is that remote work burnout can be very real.
If you’re feeling unmotivated or uninspired lately, here’s a few questions to ask yourself:
What hours do you work?
It’s no secret that one of the biggest pros to remote work is that (depending on the
agreement with your employer), you can work the hours that suit you best as long as deadlines are met. You can evaluate your work habits and determine if you work best with small tasks throughout the day or if your creativity soars when you work in bursts with bigger breaks in between. Maybe you like to wake up and knock out some work before your family gets moving for the day. Maybe you like to hammer out your tasks after the kids go to bed. Whatever works for you, don’t forget to stop and reevaluate occasionally. Maybe what worked for you in the past isn’t serving you right now. Maybe you need to set some firmer hours to help create some boundaries between work and home.
How often do you check your email?
I’m a chronic email checker. I keep my inbox at zero, so if an email comes in on my phone, I see it. While this means that I’m very on top of communication, the problem is that I can get swept up in work at any given moment, even if that means when I’m at the grocery store, or unwinding at the end of the day, or playing with my kids. I heard something recently that changed my productivity for the better. I turned off the notifications on my phone and started checking my email three times a day. Each time I check it, I spend a few minutes replying to any emails that can be answered quickly. From there, I create my to-do list to work on until the next time I check my email. I know this may sound crazy to you, and I realize not all jobs can do this, but I challenge you to think about working in a traditional office setting where you may have meetings scheduled throughout the day that take you away from your desk. How often are you realistically checking (and responding to) your email? Do you expect most people to answer an email sooner than within a few hours anyway? Chances are, if you adopt this new habit, the only person that would even know you’re checking your email “less” is you.
When’s the last time you scheduled time off?
It’s tempting to not schedule time for yourself when you work remotely. You think to yourself, “I don’t need to schedule a whole day off for that – I can stay on top of things from my phone.” I probably don’t need to tell you that this is a bad idea for a variety of reasons. First, honesty is always best and anyone that you work for would much rather know you’re going to be out of office than your productivity being scattered. Second, you need to prioritize the time when you can break free from work mentally and not feel any guilt about ignoring your inbox for a bit. Just make sure with time off you’re taking the appropriate steps of communicating both verbally and in writing and make sure to set up an out of office message for your email.
Remote work is often misunderstood. Others that work in a traditional work setting tend to think that working remotely means that you work whenever you want or that you’re vacationing on a beach most of the time. For those that work remotely, we know that while there are blessings and flexibility that do exist, it can be hard to have a firm boundary between your work and personal life. I encourage you to take some time to evaluate your current workload and mental status and ask yourself the questions above.
And maybe schedule a vacation to that beach since everyone thinks you’re there anyway.