The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
You thought you were getting tuckered out at the office, working a regular schedule. Little did you know what it would be like working from home. Paradise? Maybe not.
Suddenly, workdays were full of interruptions: Kids needed their lessons explained, the pets needed a trip to the vet, diapers needed changing, or the kitchen sink had to be unclogged…
Meanwhile, being “on the clock” didn’t stop at sundown, with work calls and emails extending into the nighttime hours. All told, one survey showed that U.S. workers were putting in an average of three more hours each workday since the pandemic began.
Want to avoid burnout? Take a deep breath, set some boundaries, and try these recommendations.
Learn the ropes
Working from home may not come naturally, especially if you’ve spent most of your career toiling away in a cubicle next to co-workers, attending meetings, and hanging out by the water cooler. You might have become accustomed to calling up IT and having a tech expert stop by your desk to explain or install the latest software.
Isolated in your home office, it’s easy to feel like you’re on your own, and that can create the stress that puts you on the fast track to burnout. Be sure you have the tech you need ahead of time, including adequate file storage and broadband. Schedule a virtual meeting with your IT expert, and fill in the gaps with online videos, tutorials, chats, and other resources.
Don’t stop at getting up to speed on your basic duties. Learn some extra skills, as well, to make yourself more versatile — and valuable.
If your family’s around during your work hours, let them know when you won’t be available so they don’t barge in and ruin your train of thought. Set boundaries: Work behind closed doors with a “do not disturb” sign on your office entrance — even if your “office” is a spare bedroom or finished basement.
Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by non-emergency requests for help or by household chores. The dishes and the laundry can wait until you’re off the clock. Treat your home office like a real office, and keep regular hours. Then, once you’re off the clock, be as protective of your personal time as you are of your workday.
Get your finances in order
Financial stress can be every bit as distracting as a sick child or a barking dog — even more so if it’s chronic. Guard against money-related worries by devising a budget and sticking to it. (And a common-sense tip: Don’t scroll Amazon for deals when you’re supposed to be working, either.)
Once you’ve taken care of your everyday expenses, put as much as you can aside to pay off interest on your debts and to dedicate to savings. While you’re at it, check your credit and look for ways to improve it, so you can borrow money if you need it. You may not be worried about it now, but you’ll thank yourself later.
And don’t forget to plan ahead for retirement. Does your company offer a 401(k) option? You might also want to consider IRA contributions or an annuity to help you retire comfortably when the time comes.
Guard against unexpected expenses
Insurance is one way to ensure that you aren’t blindsided by unexpected expenses. It’s a lot easier to put aside a regular amount every month than to get hit with a vet bill or car repair from an accident when you’re not expecting it.
While you’re at it, consider some peace of mind for your house, too. Major systems like your furnace, pipes, electrical system, and HVAC can cost an arm and a leg if they break down. A home warranty protects you from big expenses like these, as well as repairs to home appliances like your dishwasher. Don’t confuse this kind of warranty with homeowners’ insurance. It’s entirely different.
Sitting at your desk all day can get monotonous, especially if you’re at home and don’t get much change of scenery. Sitting for long periods can contribute to obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and other health risks. Get up every half-hour or so, stretch and walk around. Take a couple of 15-minute breaks and a lunch period, just as you would at the office.
If your office is big enough, you might want to add a stationary bike or treadmill. Physical activity isn’t just good for your health, it can increase your focus, too.
Burnout is always a danger if you’ve been doing the same thing for long enough. Requesting or training for new tasks can help relieve the monotony. So can moving around, reducing your financial stressors, and creating boundaries for yourself and your family. The more you do to structure your time and stay challenged and alert, the better equipped you’ll be to stave off burnout in your home office.