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How To Manage Burnout In The Remote Work Era

You are not a machine. Don't work yourself like one.

Workin’ Girl

If you're like me, you're probably running out of gas when it comes to working remotely. While it's convenient because you can roll out of bed and log into work, the lines have become very blurred between work and home. You end up working way more hours because there is no commute or true lunch hour to break up the day, and you can work until late at night and just get back into bed. Worst of all, your day is filled with back-to-back Zoom meetings where people don't know how to use the unmute button or chat function effectively. (How are they STILL struggling?)

After eight months of this routine, burnout may be starting to creep in. If you're wondering what you can do to better manage those feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm, I've got you covered! Here are some key tips that can help you stay energized:

1. Create calendar boundaries.

Don't go straight from your bed to your desk and log on to your laptop. Block time at the beginning of your day to have breakfast, work out, or just breathe. Don't answer any emails or schedule any meetings during that time. If someone seeks to schedule over your time, provide them with an alternate time block. If you're someone who needs to work late, block some time in your afternoon as well to ensure you're breaking up your day, giving your body and eyes a break, and you can refresh your brain before hopping back into it. You will not be able to work at your peak performance (or enthusiasm) level if you're working for 8+ hours without coming up for air.

2. Prioritize your work schedule.

You don't have to get ALL the things done at the same time. Speak with your manager to understand what work truly needs to be done and when. Understand what decisions are being driven by the tasks you're doing so you can put those items to the top of the to-do list. For the other items that are "nice-to-haves" but not essentials, you can put them lower on the priority list and get to them later. Prioritizing will allow you to better manage your workday so you can create balance and not unnecessarily overwork yourself.

3. Begin taking real lunch breaks.

Don't just hurriedly throw something in the microwave and continue multitasking. Block your calendar for your lunch hour, and actually go eat elsewhere. Sit at your kitchen table or on your patio. If your favorite lunch place is open for pickup, physically go and get your order (socially-distanced with a mask of course!) Take that time to rest your eyes from computer and phone screens and just enjoy the break.

4. Analyze your work schedule, and ask for something more flexible.

You may have heard this saying before: "We have not because we ask not." If you take an inventory of your work day, and you realize how it's currently scheduled is keeping you stressed and unproductive, ask your manager if there is an opportunity to modify your work times. Can you start later or earlier? Will that impact your deliverables or clients/work groups you serve? If the answer to both questions is "no", there is no reason why you can convert to a more flexible arrangement.

5. Get up and get ready. 

Make the choice some days to get out of bed a little earlier, shower and get fully dressed. Put on a full face of makeup and style your hair as if you were going out to the office. It seems simple, but this tactic can help you to feel refreshed and break up the monotony of being a workhouse in pajamas. You feel that extra burst of energy when you're dressed like a boss.

6. TAKE YOUR VACATION TIME!

If you have skipped over all my other tips, please read this one. Many of us have justified not taking vacation this year because we're in quarantine and can't REALLY go anywhere safely. But the fact is, you have PTO/vacation time for a reason. Just because you aren't physically going into the office doesn't mean you don't need a break away from work. And you don't have to justify taking your earned or allotted time off. It's part of your benefits package for you to use to its full extent. Even if you aren't ready to take a full week off or anything, just give yourself a day or two to relax. No work calls, emails, meetings, nothing. Just time for you to rest, relax and recharge.

While working remotely does offer many benefits, if we aren't careful, we may find both our mental and physical health suffering as a result. The major key to successfully managing (or better yet, avoiding) burnout is to prioritize self-care and setting boundaries. You are not a machine. Don't work yourself like one.

To learn more about Julia Rock, connect with her on Twitter or check out her company website, Rock Career Development.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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