Burnout vs. remote work


Burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration”. We may think that it’s not the case when we work remotely as we have a lot of freedom to design our own working experience. Well, that’s not true. Remote work is a huge responsibility as it requires paying more attention to our health, needs, and habits. If we’re not ready to do so, we may be falsely convinced about leading the best flexible work-life possible. Let’s dive into common, daily situations that can make our remote life unpleasant and try to tackle them right now!

Remote-unfriendly habits

As much as we have the freedom to work the way we desire, we may be unconsciously pushing ourselves into dangerous situations. Once they happen, it can be very difficult to change our habits and redesign our collaboration routines with others. Below, you’ll find common examples of remote-unfriendly practices.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started and people were immediately shifted to work from home, many felt the need to make up for their lack of physical presence. That’s why they tended to work longer hours, trying to prove their dedication to work. They hoped that by expressing constant availability, their managers wouldn’t get suspicious about them possibly not working. Various surveys were conducted about this topic and the sad conclusion was that many fresh pandemics remote workers were on the way to burnout.

2. Saying “yes” to every request

Working from home used to be mainly treated as a benefit, a perk only for chosen employees. When all people suddenly started working this way, many felt obliged to express enthusiasm towards every request coming their way. The result was once again working longer hours and being unable to complete my own tasks on time. If we agree to prioritize others’ needs more than our own ones, productivity will just go downwards.

3. Setting up unrealistic deadlines

Some tasks seem easy at first glance. We may think that since nobody is interrupting us, we’ll complete them in no time. But then it turns out that the completion is based on joint effort and we must wait for someone else’s action step to move on. Consequently, we are waiting unable to get things done the way we’ve initially planned. If such situations keep happening on a long-term basis, we may face frustration.

4. Notoriously checking all notifications

“Curiosity killed the cat” — for sure you know this saying. When we work remotely, our laptops become our workplace and it’s natural that we want to know what’s happening. However, notifications popping up every few seconds definitely don’t help us stay in the loop but distract us in such a bad manner that we may end up with having a hundred message windows open, feeling lost and unable to focus on important things.

5. Having an open calendar

Do you also live in the misconception that only a full calendar means being busy? We sometimes tend to think that if someone’s profile shows “free”, the person isn’t working at the moment. Or we may already have five meetings scheduled but since other remaining hours don’t show that we’re unavailable, new invites keep coming in. Question — how many remote meetings per day can you possibly take without falling into the Zoom fatigue syndrome? Think about it.

Healthy habits

Luckily, there are many ideas for enhancing our remote work experience. They may refer to us and planning our own time or they may relate to collaboration with others. If we start changes right away, we will be able to observe how our daily routine gradually changes for the better.

Make sure that you look at your schedule from a realistic perspective. You’re not a robot. Squeezing in numerous tasks, and hoping to complete them all without a break isn’t a good approach. The beginnings won’t be easy, but try to measure how much time every work activity takes per day and prioritize the most challenging ones before the easy, repetitive ones. Tackle the most difficult work once you’re full of energy and leave the less demanding things for later.

2. Decline meetings that have no purpose or agenda

Can you think of a meeting that literally wasted your time? Why did you attend it? What was its purpose? Was your presence really essential? Introduce a healthy habit of asking others to always include a purpose and agenda for each online meeting. If the necessity of your attendance still seems unclear, ask the organizer about it. You don’t have to be rude but just reach out politely to make sure that you are going to be an effective contributor once you attend the meeting.

3. Dedicate time to deep work

Block time in your calendar. This is a very good practice that will guarantee to get things done. If you’re planning to focus on a really important matter and you’re not willing to face unnecessary distractions, let others know by marking this in your daily agenda. That’s how you’ll also start breaking unconscious bias about being busy only during meetings that fill your calendar.

4. Don’t feel guilty about not being available all the time

You really don’t have to respond ASAP all the time, unless it’s not urgent of course. If you’re currently taking a break or you’ve just finished working, you shouldn't keep checking your phone or laptop “just in case”. Even if it lies next to you 24/7, create boundaries between “being” at work and out of it. Now you may think that you love your job so much that you’re just acting this way out of pleasure. Don’t. This isn’t a healthy habit.

5. Develop assertiveness and talk about your needs

We must try to keep remote work as human as possible. It’s not just about delivering work according to deadlines but making sure that our personal needs don’t get neglected. If you feel overwhelmed or you’re unsure of how to cope with a certain project, always talk about it openly. Also, if you disagree with something that you’re supposed to do, express it. Nobody will know and guess how you feel as they can’t see you.

Designing our own working experience

Everything is in our hands. Successful remote working requires a lot of autonomy, discipline, self-care, and top-notch communication skills. We don’t work in an office so we can’t just close the door behind us and leave according to the 9 to 5 schedule. If we are willing to work smart, we must be aware that it’s our responsibility to create a healthy space to do so. So, if you’re struggling with some of the above-mentioned examples, make sure to do something about it. Don’t wait until someone suggests change but start introducing good remote work practices that everyone will benefit from.

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