How to cope with work-from-home fatigue

Claire Chambers June 10, 2020

In March 2020, the onset of covid-19 prompted the world’s biggest ever remote working experiment. It started off as a fascinating way to work, however there is now a sense that workers are getting sick of it, possibly leading to burnout.

Earlier this month, Google and Facebook announced that most of their employees will be allowed to work from home through to the end of 2020. Twitter employees have also been told that they can work from home ‘forever’ if they want to.  But what effect is this work-from-home lifestyle having on those who are already working remotely due to covid-19?

There are a lot of advantages to working from home, and benefits for physical and mental health. These include extra breaks from screens, and the opportunity to exercise more. It gives employees time back in their day and provides a chance to measure delivery instead of input. Remote working might also be a good way to navigate workplace issues with social distancing, instead of pulling employees back into the workplace.

Young man talking on the phone in his home office

However, despite all this, working from home might not be as enjoyable as it is often depicted. Employees may feel stressed because they have to handle problems by themselves. To show loyalty and productivity, workers might believe they have to work longer hours.

Additionally, video calls can cause fatigue as meetings never change location. Managers also need to learn how to keep team camaraderie whilst working remotely. It is difficult to keep employees motivated and productive for the duration of the pandemic.

Symptoms of burnout include excessive procrastination, feelings of desolation and irritability.

If you feel that working from home is causing you burnout, stress or fatigue, below are a few tips that may help:

1. Acknowledge that things are a bit more stressful currently

  • Even doing your grocery shopping has added stresses. And if you add that to other demands, such as home-schooling and being at home with others all the time, it becomes a major headache.

2. Be kind to yourself

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself and remember that no one is performing at their best right now. 

3. Find a substitute for your commute

  • The commute often gives you time to unwind, so try to find a replacement for this. Even taking a brief walk around the block will do. This provides a switch between ‘work mode’ and ‘home mode’.

4. Do something rewarding every day

  • This is different for everyone, so do what makes you feel good. Have a piece of chocolate, practice some yoga or curl up with a good book.

5. Know your rights

  • Employees have the same rights even if they are working from home. Employers should pay any charges incurred, such as electricity. There also need to be firm boundaries between work and home life, so remember not to blur these boundaries.
Woman working from home

6. Lower your expectations

  • Don’t feel pressure to be the ‘perfect worker’. Widespread economic and job insecurity often means that workers want to show how productive they are. Clarify with your boss what the expectations are and remember if you are struggling, your manager may not have picked up on this if you are working remotely. Employees need to be open communicators as signals will be harder to sense.

7. Take a break

  • Take walks, enjoy fresh air, eat healthily and remember to have breaks.

8. Reduce camera time

  • Being constantly seen through the camera may make you feel like you are always performing, and provides colleagues with an unwelcome window into your home life. Agreeing that cameras do not need to always be on can relieve this, and allow some respite whilst still engaging with the conversation. It also allows you the opportunity to stand or stretch during long meetings.

Taking time to carry out these little tips can help prevent work-from-home stress and burnout. Employees will need to have flexibility to experiment with what works for them in these unpredictable times.  

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Claire is a freelance writer, currently working in charity marketing, with a background in linguistics.