Most of us have been working from home since Singapore’s Circuit Breaker started in April this year. That is almost half a year of WFH! WFH was initially welcomed with excitement; more time in bed, comfortable home clothes, and more flexible timings. A survey conducted a month into Circuit Breaker showed 90% of the respondents wanting to continue WFH.
However, six months in, more are beginning to feel the stress of WFH. In a recent survey released by National University Health System (NUHS) Mind Science, 61% of those working from home are stressed out at work, versus 53% of frontliners.
One key reason for this may be working out of usual office hours, with work emails coming in anytime of the day, and pressure to respond immediately is being felt.
As the line between personal life and work gets increasingly blurred, more people are likely to suffer from a WFH burnout. By that point, they will be too stressed and tired to work productively, while some may even end up being depressed.
With WFH likely to remain the default in Singapore, here are some tips to prevent and treat a WFH burnout.
Create a Schedule
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Implement your own “office hours” and stick to it. Use your office hours for work only and turn off work notifications outside of those hours. This ensures that you are not working 24/7 so that you have a good balance between work and personal life.
Other than keeping to the hours, start a daily routine. Have a “ritual” to start and end work. This can be as simple as washing up and changing into work clothes to start your day, and closing your work browser and clearing your table to end your day. Having these habits will create a mental boundary between work and personal life, allowing you to consciously move between different states of mind through the day.
Dedicate a Space for Work
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Clear up a corner in your home and make it your dedicated workspace. It does not have to be a room, it can simply be a chair at your dining table. What is important is that you have a workspace that you can “walk away” from at the end of the workday.
This dedicated workspace will be your “office” from which you can leave as you would any normal workday. Once work hours are over, do not use your “office” anymore. This creates a physical (and hence psychological) barrier between work and personal life. When you are out of “office”, you will be able to switch your “work brain” off and relax.
Another benefit of this especially for parents with young kids, is the ability to create boundaries with them. Letting them know that you are at work when you are in the “office” and that they should not disturb you will help minimize distractions and family members differentiate between work and play.
Take your Block Leave
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With travel restrictions being implemented, many of us have not used up their leaves for the year. Yet, even if you are unable to travel overseas at the moment, take a few days off work as you normally would. The leave will allow you to put down your work and take a good rest.
By resting, we do not mean that you are lazy. Instead, it is necessary for you to recharge and be more productive when you are back at work. Your few days of leave might not be “wasted” if it helps you recharge, right?
Enjoy a staycation with family or friends - you might even want to think of it as if you were overseas without access to your work laptop! Switching your work brain off for these few days may make yourself more refreshed with an even higher productivity than before.
Lastly, even if you choose not to do an activity, you can simply stay home and just do what you love, or nothing at all. After all, there is always that occasional joy in being “nua” for a whole day!
Pick Up a (Home-Based) Hobby
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We all know about the saying “Work hard, play hard”. In these difficult times, we’ve definitely been working hard in the past few months, but have you been playing hard as well?
With the ongoing pandemic and the blurring of work and personal life, it is easy to get so caught up with work that you have no more time for anything else. However, it is important to have something you are passionate about. Having a passion will help keep you going.
Find a hobby and work on it. Free up time in your daily schedule for your hobby. It brings a spark into your life so that it is not all dry and boring. After your hobby, you will find yourself re-energised and full of life again. After all, you are working on your passion.
Ask for Help
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Keeping all your stress and concern to yourself will only make things worse. If you think you are starting to feel burned out, have a talk with your supervisor and teammates. Get help redistributing your workload and outlining your main job scope.
We often lose ourselves in a burnout, sinking in the multitude of work that does not seem to end. Having a chat with your supervisor can help reorganise your thoughts and outline your workload, helping you prioritise and eliminate excess. Just remember to be tactful and professional about it, and not whine or complain!
You may also want to try working out innovative ways to collaborate with teammates so that everyone’s burden is lessened. Even if they can’t take over your workload, they are probably facing the same challenges as you, and having each other’s support and encouragement will surely help.
Lastly, speaking with friends and family - basically anyone in your “inner circle” - to take care of your emotional well-being is something many tend to overlook in the flurry of bosses messaging and babies crying. We don’t need to elaborate more on this point!
Top photo source: Unsplash/ Nelly Antoniadou