As of writing, I’ve been working from home for an entire year and a half. “Ang sarap naman ng buhay mo,” my friends would always tell me. And you know what? I couldn’t disagree. But believe me, achieving optimum work-life balance wasn’t a piece of cake. It took a little trial and error, a few mental health days, and a conscious effort to stop working after hours — especially after I experienced suffering from work from home burnout.
Work from home burnout: It’s totally a thing
During the pre-pandemic era, strangers to the work from home setup believed that having a remote job automatically equated to a much easier one. But in fact, a large number of remote workers actually have the tendency to work even longer than those with office jobs. As the ongoing pandemic has forced countless companies to shift to a remote setup, more and more are discovering the reality of work from home burnout.
From the absence of set work hours to a lack of proper employer-employee communication, there are several factors that contribute to work from home burnout. The great news is that you can do something about it! The first step, of course, is to recognise it when it’s happening. So, without further ado — below are signs you’re suffering from work from home burnout and should address it now.
Also read: 5 Reasons You Should File for Vacation Leave
Signs you’re suffering from work from home burnout
1. You clicked on this article
It seems you were looking for a sign. Well, this is it. If you even have to ask, then you most likely are already suffering from work from home burnout.
2. You can’t seem to draw a line between your personal life and your work life
Your daily routine looks like this: Wake up, work, eat (while working), sleep, repeat. You find yourself working anywhere and everywhere — whether it’s on your bed, at your desk, in the kitchen, maybe even in the bathroom. Basically, you eat, sleep, breathe work.
And if you really stop and think about it, when’s the last time you had time for yourself? For your hobbies? For self-care? If you can barely remember, then it’s time to reevaluate your work from home setup and set some boundaries.
3. You barely get enough sleep
All-nighters are the norm when it comes to your job. You’re constantly chasing deadlines into the wee hours of the day — and you’re pretty sure you think about work even while you’re asleep. (No, you aren’t dreaming about work; basically, sleeping feels like thinking about it while you’re half conscious.) The moment you get up, it’s time to get back to work. The cycle repeats.
When it comes to working remotely, expect that countless problems may arise when you fail to set specific working hours. The issue with having a work-from-home job is that you’re always at your place of work — so, when boundaries aren’t in place, the people you work with may feel that it’s okay to get in touch with you regardless of the time of day. At the same time, you feel an obligation to respond.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. You never log out of your work accounts
No, the idea of missing an important work-related email or a message from your boss just about gives you an anxiety attack — even (and especially!) if it means anyone can reach you outside of working hours. Midnight messages from your boss? An urgent deliverable while you’re at dinner? See, this is exactly why you can’t unplug.
But at the same time, this is exactly why you’re suffering from work from home burnout. Schedule a meeting with your team and establish your working hours; make it clear that any time outside those hours is your own.
Note: Another life ago, I found myself in a situation like this. I felt like I was working 24/7 — this was when I realised that work from home burnout actually exists. Do yourself a favour and unplug. The constant anxiety won’t do you any good.
5. You haven’t been eating well
It seems there’s never enough time to prepare yourself a good meal. There are just too many deliverables you have to handle. You’ve been settling for junk and last week’s leftovers; and when all else fails, fast food is your best friend.
Not having time to take care of basic needs is a clear-cut sign that you’re working way too much. It’s time for you to take a vacation leave and introduce some major changes to the way you operate at work.
6. You feel guilty when you think you haven’t been productive enough
It’s been proven that most, if not all, people are often more productive at home than they are at the office. In turn, just knowing your teammates are working harder than the average person makes you think you have to do the same. You feel too guilty not to have any output to submit for the day (even if your deadline is actually still days away). Because you’re working from home, you feel this need to prove that you really are working from home.
When you feel you aren’t productive enough, this sends you into a guilt spiral. So, you work overtime. You sacrifice sleep. You even wake up a few hours ahead to get some extra work done. Without even noticing it, you’re working yourself too hard — and you’re sacrificing your health and well-being while you’re at it.
Of all the things I learned about work from home burnout, one phenomenon in particular stood out to me. A study showed that when it comes to working from home, employees should actually be worrying about overperformance rather than underperformance. Give yourself more credit — you’re doing great.
7. You find yourself procrastinating a lot
It’s almost like avoiding seeing someone you have no escape from. Your work is always with you, and you have deadlines to chase. But you procrastinate as much as you can by busying yourself with other work-related tasks. You just can’t seem to get work done properly, despite that it’s all you think about.
Well, it’s precisely because work is all you think about. Work from home burnout causes you to slow down and eventually decline when it comes to performance. When you work overtime all the time, it’s bound to catch up on you. If you can’t think straight (or simply can’t even stop and think), take it as a sign that it’s about time you take a break.
8. You’ve started to feel apathetic towards your work
A congratulatory message from your boss? Okay. A scolding from one of your superiors? Okay, too. Neither sparks joy, or sadness, or any other emotion. You feel numb, because you’re pretty sure you’ve felt everything there is to feel about work — it’s become your life, after all.
When you’ve started feeling apathetic towards work, it just about goes to show that you’ve let it take over your life. Nothing is new to you anymore. It’s time for you to reset, recharge, and start taking care of yourself. Contrary to what you believe, there is life outside work. You deserve to take care of yourself, too.
9. You work so much more than you would at an office
If you were working at an office, you’d make it a point to time in and out according to a schedule. You wouldn’t allow 20-minute meetings to turn into hour-long conference calls — but for some reason, you’ve found yourself in way too many back-to-back video calls since you started working remotely. Work-related burnout has never felt so real.
You’re constantly drained of energy, and being in your place of comfort is suddenly not as comfortable as it should be. While working from home has saved you hours of commuting, you still end up working more than your contracted hours. Sometimes, you honestly think you’d rather spend those extra hours on the road instead — and shouldn’t that in itself be a sign you’re suffering from work from home burnout?
10. You don’t have time for any hobbies
Whenever a friend recommends a new TV series or a book you have to read, your automatic response is this: “I don’t have the time.” But think about it: Why don’t you? After all, you should only be working eight hours a day — the rest of your time should be yours, and yours alone.
It’s easy to brush off the possibility of work from home burnout. After all, those of us who remain employed despite the ongoing pandemic consider ourselves lucky. But remember that your job isn’t your life and that you don’t owe anyone your extra time as a show of gratitude. Keep working hard — during the allotted hours. Don’t forget: if you want to be able to deliver valuable results at work, it’s important to stay healthy and well-rested, too!