Last week I joined a virtual happy hour with my homegirls from Pittsburgh.  Amid this #Shelterinplace situation, it was a pleasure to connect with friends that I have known for more than 40 years all at one time. A big shout out to my friend Marcia for bringing us together via Zoom.

It’s been a while since we have seen each other in person. Last year, we planned a Labor Day weekend getaway to celebrate our milestone birthdays with t-shirts, cake and all, but had to cancel all plans due to a tornado hitting the Hilton Head island the week before our arrival.

During our virtual conversation, we talked about how we have all been working remotely over the past month. The common thread throughout the discussion was how hard we were working since we’ve been at home.

“I feel like I’m working all the time,” exclaimed one friend.

“My afternoons are blending with evenings,” another one chimed in.

One thing was clear; we were all concerned about work from home burnout. 

While I’ve worked from home for many years, the added stress of the Coronavirus has made the experience very different. Sleepless nights, general health hazards, family demands, all-day snacking and lack of uncertainty for the future have all contributed to this heightened anxiety we are all feeling. The additional stress of living in New Jersey, the second largest Covid-19 epicenter has undoubtedly added another layer of nervousness.  

For those who need a more structured environment, working from home can be challenging. And 24-hour accessibility via mobile devices makes it even harder to stick to a 9-5 schedule, as well as easier to overstep personal and professional boundaries.

So how does one avoid burnout while working from home these days?

  • Keep to a Schedule—Just like when you are in your work office, establishing a daily routine will help you stay on track and limit your ability to get sidetracked.  Try to stay off social media as it can be time-consuming.  Also, schedule time at the end of the day to clear your desk and plan for the next day.
  • Limit News–Like many of us, these days I’m “Cuomo Crushing” and want to pause mid-morning to get his daily news briefing on Covid-19.  However, I’ve started to wait and watch him on YouTube during my lunch break so that I can maintain productivity during the rest of the day.
  • Prioritize Work—Busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive.  It’s essential to work on tasks that are important.  I generally schedule my work priorities the night before, so I don’t get sidetracked with other people’s preferences and stay on task the next day.  Also, have a hard stop so you can enjoy your family.
  • Don’t Work in Your PJs—Getting showered and dressed can help put you in the right frame of mind for work.  You don’t have to put on makeup, but at least comb your hair!
  • Reduce Distractions—When I started working from home, I initially set up my office upstairs near our bedrooms. The problem was the laundry room is on the second floor too, and I found myself washing and folding clothes, as well as doing other household chores.  Also, I was interrupting my husband’s sleep, who worked the night shift at FedEx at the time (ok, I admit I was driving him crazy with loud conference calls, etc.).  A few years later, I moved my office downstairs, and it was the best thing I could have ever done.  More importantly, by relocating my office, I could easily separate work time from personal time.
  • Exercise or Take a Walk—Now that your commute is 10 seconds from your bedroom to your living room, consider replacing your morning commute with a walk to a nearby park. Or pop in an exercise tape to get your energy going before you sit down to work.  I generally work out first thing in the morning. This way I get exercise out of the way before I talk myself out of doing it.  

These are just a few recommendations that may help you avoid burnout while working from home. Who knows, you might get used to it and never want to go to the office again!