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How to avoid work from home burnout: A room of one’s own

Due to the novel Coronavirus pandemic, businesses across the globe have been forced to adapt quickly to the new reality or to accept irreparable losses or even extinction. “Work from home” has become the new norm for many people almost overnight.

Read more: Working from home – good for both companies and employees

The swift transition from the workplace environment to the home office reality will most likely bring new opportunities, but for the time being it takes some getting used to, especially for the newcomers.

Granted, for some people working at home is nothing new. You must have seen that famous cartoon:

I can’t remember: do I work at home or do I live at work?

It had been business as usual for most freelancers - content writers, online trainers, translators, programmers, etc. - and for companies that have adopted “work from home” before the COVID-19 lockdown.

However, what has been considered a perk until now in a few companies, is becoming the new norm. And not all employees and managers are ready for it.

How to avoid work from home burnout

Workplace burnout is real and it can affect people’s mental and physical health. People who clock long hours at the office are not the only ones that can experience burnout. In fact, remote employees may tend to clock longer hours from whatever it is their home office.

Read more: How to make remote work actually work for you

With so many people suddenly working from home and juggling multiple responsibilities, they could be even more prone to burnout. So let’s explore a few ideas on how to avoid work from home burnout:

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

Maintaining spatial and social boundaries will make the work from home experience more productive. It makes sense to believe that we are more productive when we don’t waste two or three hours per day commuting to the office, but if we don’t manage to create a professional spot just for us at home, things might not run very smoothly.

With spouses, kids, and pets at home all day long, it’s difficult to focus and to get anything done. Not to mention that online meetings with clients, peers or our boss might lose their professional status in a wink of an eye when our cat steals the show.

So, we should try to set some boundaries and make sure that we are isolated or al least in an “adults only” environment when we are working. A room of one’s own is an ideal setting; however, few people can afford this luxury, so any space that offers at least some degree of privacy will do.

Time is of the essence…

... So we should use it as a precious resource. Once we have set up a professional spot in the home, we should try to negotiate with our family a time slot only for ourselves and for our profession. They need to know that for all intents and purposes from 10 AM to 2 PM we are at work, even if at work means in the living room.

Constant interruptions will not allow us to focus on the tasks we have to do and will make all our efforts worthless. Especially during these trying times, when the labor market and the economy as a whole are infused with pervasive uncertainty, we should make sure that our contribution to the company is essential.

And at the same time try to do our best and be optimistic! The pandemic will not last forever, but companies need to stay afloat so that we can have a normal life after the crisis.

Social distancing is not social avoidance

A workplace is not just a place where people meet to work together and then go home without giving it a second thought. The meaningful social relationships we have with our colleagues are essential for our well-being and the success of any company.

We are a social species, we help each other and we learn from one another. We should keep in mind that we are not alone and that technology might help us stay in touch with colleagues, ask for help we need, and offer to help others when we can.

Read more: Applying the Social Learning Theory to online training

It can be equally lonely at the top and at the bottom in isolation. We should reach out whenever necessary.

Final thoughts

In 1929, Virginia Woolf published a famous essay: “A room of one’s own”. She argued that to write fiction, a woman needs two things: money to support herself and a room of her own.

Times have changed a lot since then, but one basic fact is still valid: if we want to do some work (not necessarily to write fiction) and actually make money to support ourselves, having a room of our own is wonderful; it can help us be more productive — and avoid work from home burnout.