Working from home: yes, you can still develop burnout during lockdown

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Just because we’re now working from home, doesn’t mean we’re not vulnerable to the effects of unmanaged stress. In fact, thanks to the unique stresses lockdown has thrown at us, we might be even more at risk of developing burnout than ever before.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to completely reimagine the way we work, trading our open plan office space for a small, cramped flat.

Working from home has its own unique challenges – while cutting a lengthy commute out of your day might be a massive relief, having internet issues or loud neighbours interrupting your conference calls is far from convenient.

However, despite all these little inconveniences and the occasional communication problems, those who are new to working from home may presume that being out of office means we don’t need to worry about our stress levels. After all, without the physical presence of our managers and the pressures of big meetings, there’s no reason to be stressed – right?

Working from home desk space
Working from home has presented its own unique stressors.

Wrong. Working from home may allow us to avoid some of the potential stressors we would have had to face in pre-lockdown days (rush hour tube, I’m looking at you) but that doesn’t make it a stress-free environment. 

Despite everything that’s going on in the world, the pressure to remain productive and develop our skills is stronger than ever. And on top of all the teething problems that come with working from home and the day-to-day pressures of working our jobs, we’re also facing the threat of a global pandemic.

All of these stressors add up and, if they’re not managed correctly, could lead us to develop burnout, a syndrome which results from long-term workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

“You might feel that burnout is less likely to happen during lockdown, but stress can result from lots of Covid-19 related factors such as of uncertainty, financial worries, fear of catching the virus, frustration at being stuck indoors and even boredom,” explains Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan and author of Cut Your Stress.

A woman working from home
“You might feel that burnout is less likely to happen during lockdown, but stress can result from lots of Covid-19 related factors.”

“This can lead to characteristic burnout symptoms of energy depletion and exhaustion, feeling increasing mental distance from your job, and negative thoughts relating to reduced professional effectiveness – especially if you are finding it difficult to juggle home working with home schooling and caring for others.”

According to Brewer, the best way to avoid burnout during lockdown is to try and reframe our thoughts to try and make the best of a bad situation. “Rather than being ‘stuck’ at home, consider yourself as being ‘safe’ at home,” she says.

It’s also important to take the time to destress after a day of working from home. It’s hard to feel like we’ve really ‘left’ work when our office is also our living space, but indulging in specific relaxing activities like cooking or doing some exercise can help us to switch off and detach from our “work self” at the end of the day.

To find out more about how to achieve a work/life balance at home, check out our guide.

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