By: Katie Phillips, Burnout Expert, KDP Coaching & Consulting
It’s been over a year since many of us were expelled from the office and thrust into home working. Whether we liked it or not, we had to find a way to make our spare room, kitchen table, or garden shed a quasi-professional space whilst we navigated the pandemic.
Now things are easing and we are being given the option of returning to the office. But many of us don’t miss the commute, noisy colleagues, stuffy meetings rooms or packed lunches as much as we thought we would.
We’ve noticed lots of positives in terms of our wellbeing and productivity and want to keep working from home. We like the changes that the pandemic brought to the world of work but, as with most things, there is a trade off. With the good, comes the bad.
Now we need to find a way to keep hold of the bits we like and let go of the things that are damaging our wellbeing. But what are the bits worth keeping and what do we need to avoid as we continue working from home?
More control over our work
Working from home has shown us that we are capable of working from wherever we want. It’s shown us that it is possible to build more flexibility into our days and take breaks when we need them. And without managers looking over our shoulders and the distractions of chatty colleagues many of us have have seen our focus and productivity improve. This increased autonomy and control does wonders for our wellbeing. In fact, it’s an essential element for healthy, stress free workplaces according to the Health & Safety Executive, and it’s something that we definitely need to carry forward as we return to the “new normal”.Reclaiming the commute
The time we spend commuting has all but vanished. Remote working has given us a chance to spend more time with our families and on our hobbies. On average we are saving 108 minutes per day that we can invest in doing more of the things that we love. And let’s not forget the money that we are saving, too. With almost £800 extra in the bank at the end of each year, we are richer in time and money.
Isolation & decreased visibility
Spending long hours stuck at home can cause us to feel detached from work and colleagues. In the office, we get to interact and build community. This isn’t just good for our work but also good for our wellbeing. A lack of connection can sometimes cause us to feel overwhelmed and lonely which triggers a lot of stress. And when this stress builds up it can quickly become burnout. The missing physical presence can also affect our chances of promotion. When we are less visible we may miss out on opportunities unless we are prepared to be very forthcoming with management, this is not easy for the introverts amongst us.
Lack of Boundaries
More flexible work patterns are great but the blurry line between professional and personal spaces can mean that work spills into our evenings and weekends, often without us even realizing. Just the presence of a company laptop can make it very hard to switch off. Hence many people find themselves working too late, neglecting self-care and struggling to sleep. This quickly leads to exhaustion and burnout and is something you need to let go if you are to continue working from home.
Managing your wellbeing
So, I hear you wondering, is it possible to reap the benefits of remote working without falling foul of the negatives? Yes!
It’s a case of balancing yours and the business needs and being conscious of behaviours that can damage your wellbeing and professional success.
Avoiding WFH Burnout
Here are a few simple steps you can take to look after your wellbeing if you continue to work from home.
- Set clear start and finish times
To avoid blurring the line between home and work, set clear start and finish times so your work doesn’t sprawl into the evenings. Communicate this with your teammate so everyone is on the same page. Healthy time boundaries are essential for you to show up as your best self in both your professional and personal life.
- Time block you calendar
Did you know that most people are more creative in the morning? That means that if you are checking emails and slack first things could be eating into your most productive hours of the day. Figure out when your energy is at its best and plan your work accordingly. Keep set times for emails, social media and messages and block chunks of undistracted time to work on bigger projects.
- Schedule regular breaks
Powering through the day without breaks, movement, proper meals or rest is one of the most counterproductive things we do for our wellbeing and productivity. Schedule in breaks every 40 to 60 minutes . Even if it’s just a few minutes to stretch, take a screen break, or walk around the block it can have a really positive impact. And of course there needs to be a real break for lunch as well as proper downtime in the evenings, weekends and longer pauses for holidays.
- More phone, Less Zoom
Screens can be really exhausting. We can’t totally eradicate them – without them remote working would be pretty impossible – but we can reduce them. Try suggesting a good old fashioned phone call rather than Zoom for some meetings. You can even incorporate them with a walk around the block – killing 2 birds with one stone.
- Mark the end of the day with a ritual
Setting a firm finish time is a start but our brains find it way easier to switch off if we have physical activity that lets us know it’s time to unwind. Physical activity is a fantastic way to destress. But you could clear away your desk then call a friend, listen to music, take a shower or read a book. Repeat this activity every day for a week or two and your brain will soon associate it with finishing work and switching off will be that much easier.
Communication and connection is really important if you want to stay healthy and continue to have professional success as you home-work. This is not an exhaustive list but 2 key areas to help you avoid the pitfalls of being remote.
Connect with your colleagues
The thought of an extra zoom meeting may fill you with dread, but a quick catch up over coffee whilst chatting about anything and everything that IS NOT your work can be really helpful. This will help you replicate the sorts of conversations you would have naturally in the office. Bonus points if you meet with people from different teams. The broader your professional circle the more likely you are to hear about and be considered for opportunities when they come up.
Let your manager know how you are doing
Are you feeling stressed, isolated or lacking clarity? Speak up and ask for guidance and support. It’s much harder for your manager to spot any issues when you don’t see each other daily. You have to take a more proactive approach to your work and your wellbeing. If you are worried about starting that conversation you can find a helpful guide here.
Start embedding these things into your days and your wellbeing and productivity will slowly but steadily increase until you can find a sustainable way to balance your professional and personal life.