The psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost an estimated — $125-$190 billion annually in healthcare spending in the US, according to research by Harvard Business School and Stanford professors. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our everyday lives, the competing demands of work and family can leave people feeling anxious and exhausted.
Burnout is already a problem within the global workforce, now officially recognized as an "occupational phenomenon" by the World Health Organization.
Now, employees who are new to working remotely may be more at risk of burnout. Keen to show loyalty and productivity during this difficult time, they may feel pressure to answer emails out of hours or watch their working day spread into the evening.
Given that some employees may be asked to continue working from home for several months, here are a few ways remote workers can maintain a good work-life balance when working from home.
You're never far from the kitchen when working from home, but relying on caffeine to power you through the day can leave you feeling sluggish by early afternoon. Instead, try taking an exercise break. Getting those endorphins flowing delivers a natural burst of energy as well as a brain boost.
Try going for a walk at lunchtime or scheduling some online fitness classes into your day. Invite a few coworkers to a 30-day competition and see who can rack up the most steps or minutes of movement.
Stick to a Schedule
Waving goodbye to the morning commute and office attire might have felt refreshing at first, but many remote workers struggle to maintain structure throughout the day with healthy boundaries for work, family, and relaxation time. "Maintaining temporal boundaries is critical for well-being and work engagement," reports Harvard Business Review.
However, authors Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa Bohns noted that sticking to the same schedule you had in the office may not be realistic. "Employees need to find work-time budgets that function best for them," Giurge and Bohns stated. "For some, it might be a child’s nap, for others, it might be when their partner is cooking dinner."
Exchanging Chores with a Partner
With families home all day every day, domestic chores can become more burdensome than usual. There are more meals to prepare, more cleaning up, and more opportunities to become frustrated with the amount of housework and division of labor.
Swapping chores with your partner for a day, or even a week, can help you both to understand the mental load required for the task. For example, cooking dinner might also involve ensuring that groceries are well-stocked and any dietary needs or preferences within the household are considered.
You will also be better equipped to anticipate each other's needs and share the burden of household chores. What better way to show someone you care than by taking out the trash when it's not your turn?
Zoom, Slack, and cellphone notifications are great for keeping in touch with your team, but when work hours are done, make a commitment to power off your devices and disconnect from the digital world for a while. "Remote work isn’t contingent on 24/7 connectivity," noted Micah Bowers, an illustrator at Toptal.
During the working day, Bowers has this advice: "Don’t hesitate to disable notifications. The barrage of dings, beeps, and chimes will hinder your productivity and undermine your emotional well-being."
Play the Long Game
"If you focus on your career day-to-day, week-to-week, or even month-to-month, it becomes very overwhelming," said Shannon Watkins, senior vice president of Brand and Creative Services at Aflac, in an interview with Thrive Global.
Watkins notes that taking a longer-term view of your career enables you to see it as a whole. "The result is making decisions that support your entire career versus the short-term, emotional decisions," she added.
"We have this body of research that shows workplace stress is very bad for health," says Joel Goh, Harvard Business School assistant professor and author of The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States." But traditionally in the US we have not placed a lot of emphasis on the role of workplace stress in the high cost of health care."
As we adjust to working from home, a balance between work and home has never been more important.