Working from home burnout: why taking care of our stress levels is just as important outside the office

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Working from home doesn’t make you less vulnerable to the effects of mismanaged stress – in fact, thanks to additional factors such as isolation from colleagues, communication issues and blurred work/life boundaries, we might be more at risk of developing burnout than ever before.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to reimagine the way we work. For some, September might mark the start of their return to the office, for others, working from home will continue to be the reality for some time to come. And because of that, it’s even more important that we’re aware of how we manage our stress levels over the next couple of months.

It may be tempting to assume that being out of the office means we don’t need to worry about our stress levels, because we’re away from the physical presence of managers and the pressures of big meetings.

But in reality, that’s just not the case.

In fact, working from home presents its own unique stressors. While cutting a lengthy commute out of your day might alleviate some of the stress you felt pre-pandemic, being isolated from your colleagues, dealing with communication issues and struggling to establish work/life boundaries can actually add to the daily stress you might normally experience.

Add to that the fact that, despite everything that’s going on in the world, the pressure to remain productive and develop our skills is stronger than ever, and it’s no surprise so many of us are finding remote working so taxing for our mental health.

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

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 any other responsibilities you might have around the house.”

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, and make sure you’re creating a healthy divide between your working hours and ‘living’ hours. 

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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