The Prescription for Digital Burnout
Once upon a time ago, in a land far, far away, the concept of working from home (WFH) or anywhere outside of a cubicle was not the norm. Of course, some individuals high on the corporate ladder were working remotely, living in what the rest of us considered the future! However, that was a rarity compared to the number of those who work remotely today. In 2019, only 7% of the US workforce worked remotely, according to Pew Research Center. That number is expected to jump to 31% by 2022, which is only a couple of months away (Gartner).
Working from home has its perks; there’s no doubt about that. The commute is a heck of a lot shorter, you’re saving on gas, and that’s good for the environment too. There’s flexibility in scheduling, fewer distractions, and you don’t have to worry about an inconsiderate coworker microwaving fish in the company lounge. Let’s not forget about the employers who now have access to a much larger pool of talent because all you need to work from anywhere in the world is a good internet connection. However, like anything in life, there are two sides to every story.
While those working from home boast of being happier and more productive, remote workers are experiencing something called digital burnout. Itstimetologoff.com defines burnout as “mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion due to chronic and excessive stress.” Digital burnout is just that, but only it’s the result of being connected for far too long. Contrary to what Karen, who’s in the PTA and still goes into the office 5-days a week, thinks, working remotely isn’t all naps and cuddling with your dog. It’s hour after hour of looking at a screen and video conferencing. There’s no office chit-chat to pull you away from what you’re doing, and the line between home and work becomes so blurred that you forget to disconnect. There may even be a fear of disconnection because you don’t want to appear that you are napping with your dog. Because of the failure to disconnect, remote workers often find themselves working longer hours than they would if they were in the office. They’re checking emails all hours of the night, and there’s that feeling of ‘just one more thing, or after this, I’m done for the night,’ and before you know it, it’s 10 o’clock at night! The key to thriving in a remote work environment is learning how to recognize digital burnout so that you can avoid it.
Signs you might be experiencing digital burnout:
Lack of sleep
Loss of motivation
Lack of enjoyment and creativity
Sudden changes in behavior
So, how do you prevent yourself from getting to the point of digital burnout?
We’re glad you asked.
Set work-life boundaries
If you were in the office, you wouldn’t be checking your emails at 9 o’clock at night. Give yourself a hard start and stop when it comes to emails.
If possible, create a space just for work so you don’t find yourself replying to emails or running pivot tables while on the couch or in bed.
Turn off notifications
Notifications create a sense of false urgency and pull you away from your other responsibilities.
Delay your responses
When a work email or text message comes in, don’t jump to respond. Give yourself time to finish what you’re doing and think through your response.
This also helps set boundaries with those sending the messages because if you drop everything you’re doing to reply, it will become the expectation, and ultimately you will become resentful and exhausted.
Choose alternate modes of communication
Text messages, Slacking, emails, and video conferencing have become the norm. Opt-in for a good old-fashioned phone call and get a little human interaction.
Take a break
Whether you’re working from home or the office, you deserve a break, so take it!
Breaks don’t need to be an hour-long; sometimes, a 5 - 10 minute break every few hours will do the trick.
If you have trouble giving yourself permission to walk away, set an alarm or a reminder.
This is easier said than done but unplugging, when possible, can do a world of good.
Get outside, take a walk, or find a hobby that doesn’t require technology.
Schedule time off
If you have vacation days, use them!
Stop working on weekends
If your job doesn’t require you to work on weekends, don’t!
Use your weekends to recharge your batteries.
If you constantly find yourself working on your days off, this too will become the expectation.
The moral of the story is that for a healthy work-from-home life, you have to create balance. When you work remotely, it’s too easy to lose sight of where your professional life ends, and your personal life begins. Technology is wonderful. If it wasn’t for it, we’d all be back in our cubicles but use it responsibly. Just because we can be connected all the time doesn’t mean we should. Taking time for yourself will make you a happier, healthier, and more productive employee and human being.
Check out these blog posts for more tips:
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