Now that the pandemic has chased many of us away from our usual desks and into our bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms, we can sometimes find ourselves struggling with the weight of the new remote rules of work.
Too much screen time, a lack of boundaries between work and home and endless video calls have made remote work more taxing than it was first assumed to be.
We’ve experienced working from home for the best part of 2020, and we now know it requires more long-term focus and more energy than being in the office. The key to avoiding burnout when home working is learning how to maintain that energy.
Pay attention to ritual and routine.
None of us are missing our hour-long train journeys or only getting back home after 7pm, but as much as we hated our commute they were a ritual that separated work life and home life. Those rituals are needed to help us re-energise and focus.
We’re also missing those breaks that we would build into our workday; grabbing a cup of coffee, or having a chat with a co-worker. Those rituals are where you gather your energy, and you can replicate the effects of those with similar activities from home.
The key is to be intentional – it could be listening to music, doing a stretching routine, taking a brisk walk at a certain time of day. Whatever it takes for you to create a defined transition between work and home.
Manage your interactions.
Participating in a video call can feel a little like a performance. And seeing floating, two-dimensional depictions of your colleagues provides you none of the usual cues that help you in reading a room, understanding others and effectively communicating.
A day of back-to-back meetings with just a camera in your face means you’re on stage, performing, for 8 hours a day – it can be a huge tax on your energy.
In order to have balance in your day you have to sandwich the rituals and transitions in with these calls or events you might find more taxing. After a big video meeting you could schedule a small amount of downtime, ready to recharge and refocus on your next task.
Think about how you naturally break up you day, consider when you’re usually on, and build your more taxing work demands around that, leaving other times for work you find a little less weighty.
Create an environment that enforces boundaries.
Your desk could be your dining room table, but you must make it feel like a workspace – it’s easy to take a break to fold laundry or empty the dishwasher because we’re at home, but doing so once could make it more difficult to refocus, and making it habitual creates an unhealthy blur between work and home life.
Limit distractions around you during your working hours and, if you can, physically close off that workspace when the time comes to switch off for the evening.
Along with many new challenges, there’s an opportunity when it comes to working from home.
Instead of transferring old habits from the workplace to our homes, we have a chance to look at our processes, refine the way we work, and build something better.