Remote Work Burnout: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Remote work seems like a dream for many. But when it reveals a new side, you start experiencing another problem: remote work burnout.

When burnout starts taking a toll on your mental health, it affects your overall productivity and work efficiency, as I witnessed a shift in my performance at work.

Consequently, I started inquiring more about the reason behind and thus I recognized the situation I was going through at that time, does have a name and it is called burnout.

But how could remote employees suffer from burnout when they are privileged to have so many perks and benefits? Well, it was the same question I asked myself when I came to know that I was experiencing frequent burnout while working from home.

Here is what I went through, fought with, and survived from.

Remote Work Burnout: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

My Experience of Remote Work Burnout:

From day 1 in my first job, I have been a remote worker. So, I work from home irrespective of the global scenario, and thus, I leverage all the benefits of being an all-time remote worker.

Sounds great, no?

Yes, I also believed working from home would offer me a lot of flexibility, reduce my cost of living for commutation purposes or rental accommodation in another city, and help me maintain a better work-life balance.

Additionally, I could work wearing my T-shirt and pajama just like I live at home! There would be no headache for boarding the local train or bus, even auto or rickshaw to attend my office.

All I need is to set up my remote workspace in my room and start the day. Thinking this, I was on cloud nine and started dancing when I grabbed my first job. Whoa, I am a privileged one, though!

But the happiness became a guest for only one month, and soon after I stepped into the second month of my job, I realized something had begun wrong.

I could sense something was not going as I desired, something I could not realize when I dug deeper. I started feeling exhausted after working for two or three hours, and I was unaware that the clock had to run for more hours to finish my office schedule. Sometimes, I left the work desk in the middle of working on a project and came to the porch to breathe in the fresh air.

One morning, I started working as usual. But within thirty minutes, I felt something choking me, and I couldn’t breathe air into my lungs.

In addition, I was feeling exhausted, devastated, and overwhelmed altogether. I could not name my emotion at that time. I could not figure out what was going wrong with me, only to experience excessive stress, fatigue, sadness, anguish, and hopelessness in my job.

The situation was extreme when I decided to write the resignation letter because I could not cope with the stress and beat the monotony. But I was unaware of the fact that this happens to many of us, and this is when you are burned out at work.

Although I had heard about burnout before, I could not believe that it is obvious to experience burnout while working from home. That was beyond my imagination as working from home seemed very relaxing.

Whenever I envisioned the work-from-home scenario, I could only visualize someone working with a laptop, sitting on the couch with a plate with a half-eaten pizza, an empty coffee mug kept on the table, wearing casual attire, looking stress-free, and beaming with a relishing joy of doing the work from the comfort zone.

But I met the reality only when I started my job. Experiencing burnout was a reality check for me. And thus, I came to know about remote work burnout in a more detailed way.

Signs of Remote Work Burnout:

Before you seek help for burnout prevention, you must recognize that you have been suffering from burnout while working from home. Therefore, it is better to understand the symptoms so that you can be aware beforehand.

The common symptoms of remote work burnout include:

• Reduced productivity and efficiency at work

• Lack of concentration while working

• Consistent forgetfulness

• Headaches, palpitations, and indigestion

• Negative feelings about your job

• Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted

• Lack of motivation to work more

• Change in sleep routine

• Irritability and short-temper

• Anxiety and depression about work

Causes for Burnout while Working from Home:

There are some major reasons that cause remote workers to suffer from burnout. Let’s have a look.

Lack of Workplace Motivation:

One of the main reasons behind work-from-home burnout is lacking inspiration at the remote work setup. Chronic stress results in frequent burnout, and it affects employees’ cognitive skills. As a result, they face difficulties in thinking, learning, reasoning, and paying attention while working.

Inabilities to Unplug from Work:

Remote work often leads to working for extended hours, which becomes stressful for the employees. And the extra work hours lead to over stress which is an inevitable factor for causing you burned out.

Working in Isolation:

We can’t deny the fact that we like to be surrounded by people to find a small break and engage in conversations. This is very helpful for reducing the stress level in your workspace.

But remote work set-up can offer you all types of benefits except a co-worker sitting and working beside your desk. That’s why remote workers often suffer from loneliness, and consistent monotony could result in burnout.

Zoom Fatigue:

One of the major reasons behind remote work burnout is Zoom fatigue. When remote workers have less than thirty minutes between two meetings, it causes them to feel fatigued and it becomes difficult for them to continue working.

Additionally, meetings that run for longer hours make them spend more time staring at a screen as well as they lack movement during the session. As a result, they experience Zoom fatigue that contributes to suffering from burnout.

Remote Work Burnout as a Widespread Problem:

Some interesting facts were revealed to me when I researched more about work-from-home burnout and came across the survey reports conducted by some renowned forums. Let’s have a look.

However, there are ways to get rid of this situation than fretting away and giving up. If you can prevent burnout at an early stage, it will be beneficial for your health.

How to Prevent Remote Work Burnout:

When you are experiencing burnout at your remote work, leaving your job is not the only option that could save your health.

Instead, if you can follow some tips and adopt changes in your work schedule, it will be helpful to prevent you from having frequent burnout while working from home.

Let’s explore them.

Boundaries are Essential:

When you are working from home, there is a possibility of working for extended hours. This happens regularly, and you forget to keep track of how many hours you were logged in to the laptop even if your work hours ended.

Therefore, setting boundaries is the foremost thing needed to avoid remote work burnout. Set your work duration clearly, try to finish all your tasks within that time, and log out of your laptop.

If you have urgent work to submit after the work hour, make sure it doesn’t extend for long. Set your boundaries to protect your peace.

Give Yourself a Break from Work:

Your health is your real wealth, and the sooner you realize it the better. Taking small breaks works very well to prevent remote work burnout.

When you are feeling overstressed at your remote work or you realize that you have started experiencing the signs of burnout, it is better to disconnect from work and take a break.

Disconnecting from work is helpful to regain your energy and return to work afresh. In addition, you will get back your motivation to continue your work.

I keep taking breaks in every hour and it helps me to pause for a while. I go to the porch, watch the greenery outside, and breathe in some fresh air. Sometimes I go to my mom and watch her cooking. Sometimes I just close my eyes and stay calm for two minutes.

Make Time for Regular Exercise:

Working out helps to avoid remote work burnout. Therefore, if you can make time for exercise regularly, it will reduce the chance of experiencing burnout effectively.

Exercise makes you feel better because exercise releases endorphins that help in getting a fresh vibe for the day. When you are working in a remote setup, staying active for the entire day seems tough.

Therefore, regular exercise is important to include in your daily routine to increase your productivity and release your stress.

Spend Time with Yourself:

While working with a hectic schedule, often we forget that we have a personal life. We forget our hobbies, our passions, and what we love. Therefore, if you are working in a remote setup, make some time for yourself too.

In your holidays, spend some time with your hobbies or dedicate time to your passion project. Sing, dance, or paint. Laugh with your loved ones. Create artwork or crafts, watch movies, try a new recipe, or simply watch your plants grow.

With your favorite leisure time activities, you can refresh your mind and connect with your inner self.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle:

When we work, whether it is a remote work setup or hybrid model, or attending office, it is necessary to take care of your mental health. Along with your physical health, focusing on your mental well-being is equally important.

Therefore, develop a healthy lifestyle with eating habits and sleep routines. Prioritize your health over anything else. Having nutritious meals helps you to stay active for longer hours. Thus, you can avoid the risks of burnout.

Similarly, get enough sleep at night. Maintain a sleep routine for having adequate sleep at night. When you sleep peacefully at the night, you will have the energy to work in the next morning. This way, you will stay productive for the entire day.

How to Recover from Burnout with the ARC Method:

When it comes to recovering from burnout, you need time. You need time for processing your overwhelmed mind and taking small steps to work on them. This way, gradually, you will recover from burnout.

However, when my stress became extreme and I couldn’t cope with it anymore, I decided to pause. I paused and breathed; then I took baby steps toward recovery.

For this purpose, I followed the ARC Method to overcome my burnout state. ARC consists of three stages: Accept, Reflect, and Connect. Each stage had a few steps that helped me admit the root cause of my burnout, take a step forward to keep the stressors away, rediscover my values, explore new avenues, and reset my mind to start afresh.

I gave time to myself to process each step with utmost care and compassion. This is how I walked through the ARC method:

Stage 1– Accept

Steps to follow:

Acknowledge your feelings: The first step in the recovery process is accepting the fact that you are burned out. Acknowledge and accept that you are being burnt out although you are working from home because this is how you will recover from your remote work burnout.

It was tough for me to accept the fact that it is okay to experience burnout despite working from home. I realized there was something that was not serving me the way as expected, and then I acknowledged I was burning out at work.

Address the stressors: Identify the factors that are stressing you consistently. Address the factors contributing to your burnout situations and distance them immediately.

For me, monotony at work was the stressor for my burnout. The work procedure seemed boring to me; thus, I took a one-day break from work. I made that day a digital detox day so I could read books, sing aloud, and cook a dish, keeping myself away from digital media.

Stage 2 – Reflect

Steps to follow:

Redefine your values and purpose: This is the time to question yourself about what you need and what you don’t. Find some quiet moments to introspect, journal your thoughts, and figure out what gives you peace while working.

Similarly, this is the time to identify some crucial things in your life. Redefine your purpose at work and evaluate the contribution of your workplace or work experience to the future steps of your career map.

I decided to look for new jobs where I could join with my newly acquired skillsets.

Rejuvenate yourself: Find time to nourish your mind and body. Do some self-care activities and release your stress. Have a good sleep routine, eat healthy food, and involve in body movement like exercising or walking, or running.

I went on an evening walk and spent some time in nature to heal myself.

Rewire your brain: After taking a rest and nurturing your mind, it is time to reflect on the changes. Now that your mind is all prepared to embrace changes, grow a new habit to enjoy your work and develop a mindset shift.

I added some flavor to change my work procedure and turned my boring tasks into interesting ones. I also made changes in my remote work setup, decorated the work desk in a new style, and stuck some motivational quotes on the wall.

Stage 3 – Connect

Steps to follow:

Communicate with people you love and trust: Talk to your dear ones, have delightful conversations, and open up yourself to lighten up your mood.

I called my close friends, laughed with them, and de-stress after work hours.

Practice self-compassion: Add compassion to your daily routine.

I became aware of my self-care routines and spent time with meditation to heal my mind. Also, I practiced self-compassion at every step.

This way, slowly I recovered from remote work burnout by following the ARC method.

Role of Leaders to Improve the Scenario:

When it’s difficult to make a change with the existing resources, leaders must come forward to hold the rein of global problems like remote work burnout and show the way toward benefitting employees when working from home.

Therefore, leaders from across the world should join hands in making an impactful remote work environment so that employees thrive in success without being overstressed or suffering from the pitfalls of remote work setups.

Here are the steps that lay the foundation stone to implement a remote work environment that is more inclusive and humane:

•       Establishing an empathy-driven approach to the company work culture

•       Rethinking the home-office setups

•       Focusing on regular communication between the team members

•       Upskilling managers to build a diverse workplace

•       Conducting programs on employee well-being

Concluding Thoughts:

I experienced remote work burnout when I started working from home and gradually, I questioned my decision of being a full-time remote employee as I developed disappointment with my job.

At a point, I started disliking it and wanted to leave as soon as possible. I wanted to take a break from my hectic schedule and give myself time for taking pause. All I wanted was to slow down and allow myself to take a breather by relaxing.

But leaving the job was not easy for me considering various factors. Therefore, I chose to continue working for some more months. Instead of quitting the job, I tried to recover from burnout by every means.

Finally, I overcame the situation and continued working peacefully.

This is why I encourage employees to think about remote work burnout more seriously and follow preventive measures at the earliest possible.

Your peace is in your hand. Therefore, it is your responsibility to take care of your well-being along with working for a better future.

Image Courtesy: Canva & Unsplash

(This post is part of Cause A Chatter campaign by Blogchatter.)

(This content is copyrighted by Swarnali Nath and by no means to use for any purpose without the writer’s prior permission.)

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