It has been six months since most companies officially sent employees home for what many thought would be a few weeks and has now become months, stretching on for the foreseeable future. The flexibility to work from home has long been part of the trend toward flexible work arrangements aimed at attracting and retaining talent in an ever more competitive market. However, half a year working from home has had the opposite effect on work-life balance for many and instead of feeling less stressed, people are feeling the WFH burnout.
With social activities and travel curtailed, many of us are spending considerable more time in our homes than we ever did before. Therefore, where we work blends into where we eat, sleep, and gather with our families. Summer Fridays have lost their luster with the anticipation of weekend plans, a mere glimmer of the excitement we used to feel. Days turn into weeks that turn into months, and every day is pretty much the same, making us feel like we're running on a hamster wheel.
Tuning into how we're feeling is important so we can give ourselves some TLC before we feel burned-out.
So what can we do to help ourselves? Try as many or as few of the following ideas as your schedule allows to make sure that you're taking care of yourself physically and mentally during this WFH period.
Take mini breaks throughout the day.
It's recommended to take a break every 50-90 minutes for 15-20 minutes or, more precisely, every 52 minutes for 17 minutes (according to the Atlantic) for maximum productivity. Mini breaks happen naturally at the office when you bump into a co-worker getting a coffee refill in the kitchen or walking by your desk. During WFH, we still need to build in these mini breaks. One of the best ways to do this is through time blocking. Time blocking is not only for meetings but also for focused work you need to get done, including scheduled breaks throughout the day. Schedule time with a co-worker and catch up over coffee or lunch. Even 15 minutes of social connection can help us feel energized and refreshed.
Get your dose of nature every day.
We were already addicted to technology before the pandemic and even more so now, but trading in screen time for fresh air and sunshine is one of the best ways to clear your mind and energy. While we used to leave our desks to pick up lunch or get an afternoon coffee with a colleague, we need to build that time into our day now in a purposeful way. Eat lunch outside or enjoy an afternoon pick-me-up while getting your head out of your laptop for a few minutes and soaking up some rays. Nature is grounding and helps us feel connected with ourselves. Tuning into how we're feeling is important so we can give ourselves some TLC before we feel burned-out. If you can't get outdoors during the week, make sure you spend part of your weekend in nature. A walk or picnic in the park, a hike, or a bike ride are all great ways to experience nature in a socially distanced way.
Change up your workspace.
Many of us have set up shop on our beds, kitchen counters, and coffee tables. If you can avoid it, set barriers between your living space and your work space, even if this means working on your couch instead of on your bed. Having a physical change from where we work and where we relax is important to mentally disconnect after the workday. We might be working and living at home, but one of the easiest ways to re-energize your workspace is to change it up. Swap the kitchen table for the coffee table or take your laptop outdoors while you can. Changing something as simple as our setting triggers our sensory system. Because every day is the same as the next and our routine can feel a bit monotonous right now, even these small changes can give us revitalized energy. If you can't change locations, make it your own. Spruce up your workspace with a plant or flowers, a new lamp so you can actually see, or photos of friends and family, just as you would at your real office—make the space your own.
Having a physical change from where we work and where we relax is important to mentally disconnect after the workday.
Check your company benefits.
Now might just be the time to invest in a standing desk. Many companies have even started providing employees with stipends for office furniture for their homes. Many other companies are investing in mental health resources like mindfulness apps to help employees manage stress. Check with your company to see what benefits they have available to you. If they don't have any right now, it's important to communicate how important these are to you.
Schedule time with your supervisor.
Let them know what you're going through. In all likelihood, they are probably experiencing some of the same feelings themselves.
It always helps to talk through how you're feeling, and sometimes the best thing to do is to talk it through with your manager instead of suffering in silence. Let them know what you're going through. In all likelihood, they are probably experiencing some of the same feelings themselves. If you are a manager, having open conversations and check-ins with your team is even more important now. At my company HealthKick, we like to do a mid-week check-in where we share how we're feeling on a scale of 1 to 5. This helps to get a pulse on how the team is feeling and allows us all to share advice in hopes of lifting those up who are having a tough day or week.
Walk, run, bike, do a yoga class, or go for a swim. Being active clears your head, relieves stress, gets your endorphins flowing, and puts you in a more positive frame of mind. For a bonus step, listen to a favorite podcast or e-book to learn something new and broaden your horizons. With so many great options for online streaming classes like Peloton, Aaptiv and MyYogaWorks, it's a great time to break out of your routine and try something new that you haven't before.
Start your day with three things that you're grateful for. End your day by thanking three people in your life you want to recognize for something. There are so many apps to help like Insight Timer, which has over 1,000 free meditations. Gratitude is the quickest way to change our mood and get grounded in the abundance of what we have. Letting people know you are thinking of them is a quick and easy way to spread good vibes that keep on giving.
Take time for self-care.
When is the last time you slept in, took a bath, or got a manicure or a facial? Take the time to focus on you and the little things that make us feel connected to ourselves and taken care of. There is a reason long distance runners and triathletes fuel up throughout a race—we need to keep refilling our tanks to keep on going!
Take your vacation.
It might be a staycation, but it still gives you a mental break to decompress and disconnect. Even just a couple of days off your laptop and doing the things you love can be just the R&R you need. If you can take a road trip, a change of scenery is always a great way to get out of your head and experience something new—which is the perfect antidote to come back refreshed.
WRITTEN BYErika Zauner