How to Avoid Remote Work Stress & Burnout
Working from home stress is remarkably common for remote employees. That’s why learning how to take care of your mental health when working from home is crucial for today’s ever expanding remote workforce.
Managing your mental health at work is just as important as reaching your project goals and maintaining high levels of productivity. Issues associated with employees who work from home, such as loneliness and burnout, are on the rise — especially with employees who have never worked from home before.
To help remote employees manage stress and maintain good mental health, we're sharing helpful habits and tips you can implement in your day-to-day life.
What is work from home stress?
Remote work is no longer just a perk. Today, it’s a necessity for many. When your house doubles as your workspace, it can lead to difficulty setting boundaries, added career pressure, issues managing workloads, and more. These are just some of the reasons many find it difficult to work from home full time.
Employees that have transitioned to remote work may also have the added pressure of working with children in the house, and catering to their family's needs while trying to stay engaged and productive at work.
Working from home stress: how can you identify it?
75% of remote workers share that they experience stress and burnout at work. More than 37% report working longer hours than they did previously. This is coupled with increasing childcare duties and other rising at-home responsibilities.
Remote work burnout
When you feel exhausted after a long workday, experience negative feelings about your job, or see your professional efficacy going down, those may be the warning signs of remote work burnout. With its chronic nature, it can tire you out mentally even before you realize something's wrong.
This intense pressure can cause employees to overstretch themselves, and eventually burn out, impacting their work performance. Not being able to stop and chat with colleagues, compare progress, or ask simple questions in person may also make completing tasks harder.
Work from home stress
Struggling with working from home depression? You’re not alone. While just 5% of employed workers mentioned experiencing work from home stress before the COVID-19 pandemic, that figure rose sharply to 18% during the pandemic.
Maintaining a work-life balance and regular self-care can help kick away the work from home stress before it turns into a full-blown burnout.
Why remote work mental health awareness is important
Mental health awareness at work should be a priority for every company. In a bid to pivot or maintain profitability, too much pressure may be placed on employees who are anxious about the security of their jobs due to the pandemic's impact on businesses.
The worries and pressure on employees, especially those who are working from home for the first time, can exacerbate mental illness and lead to a drop in productivity. Educating or simply talking about mental health at work opens up a channel for employees, and leaders, within a company to share their experiences in a way that makes the team feel closer and safe.
Hosting regular summits on mental health, sending weekly stress management tips via email, highlighting Mental Health Awareness Month, or inviting employees to take ‘mental health days’ are few things employers can do to help create awareness at work.
When your team is aware of how to take care of their mental health at work, they can see signs in themselves or in colleagues who are on the verge of becoming overwhelmed.
A fellow remote teammate may be feeling lonely when working from home. Some symptoms to look out for in colleagues who may be on edge include emotional outbursts, a decline in work performance, withdrawing from other colleagues, and constant feelings of discouragement or sadness.
How to improve remote work mental health
Here are some tips and habits you can implement to take care of your mental health while working from home.
1. Prioritize taking care of your mental health
It may seem obvious, but in a calendar full of meetings, tasks, deadlines, family, physical hygiene, and children, the thought of how to work on your mental health often comes last. It is essential, however, for companies and employees to invest in mental health-boosting activities and initiatives. This makes it easier to help struggling employees before their issues become serious.
Employees can protect their mental health at work by taking regular timed breaks within work and meetings. They can also try accomplishing their tasks using the popular Pomodoro technique for time management. This allows for break times where they can pop some clothes in the laundry, check-in on their kids, or take a few minutes to breathe and build a gratitude habit.
Mindset matters a lot when it comes to thriving in new work environments. By practicing some of these habits, you can strengthen your mental health and gain more energy to be productive at work, from home.
2. Be open and realize you do not have to be perfect
When working remotely, many employees are feeling the pressure to prove their value to their employers.
This may make you hide your struggles as you transition to new work arrangements and discourage you from seeking help from your colleagues and employer. It may also cause you to take on more work than you can handle to prove that you are productive even while working from home.
This is a time that calls for leadership in everyone, not just those in management positions. If you lead the way by encouraging good mental health habits and discussions during your team meetings, you can create a better culture of support, empathy, and productivity within your organization.
3. Create a routine and stick to it
When we talk of good work from home habits, creating a routine and sticking to it tops the list. Routines strengthen your mental health by reducing the number of decisions you have to make in a day.
You create more mental space and have more energy to get things done when you are organized and prepared for the tasks you have planned in a day. You may not accomplish everything, but you will have a lot more peace and control as you go about your day.
Note that organizing your routine should not only stop at "what" you do within the workday but also "where" you do it. Create a dedicated workspace with an ergonomic chair that supports your back, neck, and spine.
Try to schedule in daily workouts or walks to keep your body healthy. Physicians say regular exercise helps to lower anxiety levels and boost the flow of endorphins in the body.
4. Track your work transparently
One of the biggest concerns of employees who are new to working remotely is figuring out how they can show their work in an easy format that is accessible to every team member involved.
Wrike's team collaboration software solves this seamlessly by making it easy to communicate with one another and work with clear direction and visibility over what is expected of each team member on each project. You can get more done with less stress as the software provides the structure and flexibility you need to be productive while working remotely.
You can complete projects in sync with your team and have communications and project management aligned in one portal.
5. Control your information intake
While it is wise to stay informed about the latest news updates, it's also important to protect yourself from the barrage of information — and misinformation.
You can protect your mental health at work by reading relevant news from a few trusted sources and ignoring all others. Going through the constant stream of negative news from all over the world is detrimental to your mental health. It will elevate anxiety and stress levels and affect your outlook and work performance.
You can instead replace checking the news with a positive habit. Whenever you find yourself worrying or reading the news, you can drink a glass of water, breathe in deeply, or meditate. These healthy habits can turn the impulse to stay updated on world news into a means for you to stay healthy.
How to look after the mental health of your workmates when working from home
Staying connected is one of the most proactive ways of looking after the mental health of workmates who are also working from home.
With group chats, videoconferences, and one-on-one phone conversations, you can check in on co-workers who seem to be struggling more than others.
You can suggest game nights or a fun virtual team building activity to foster closeness and friendship. Most importantly, you can listen and be of assistance to those who are alone or going through a great deal of stress.