4 tips to prevent remote work burnout

By: Tricia Ang, Digital CFO Asia | 6 Jan 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has chased many of us out of our offices and remote working has become the new normal. At the beginning, most employees regard this as a benefit since working from home has always been seen as an incentive or company perk pre-COVID. However, many now are struggling with the new rules of remote work: too much screen time, a lack of boundaries between work and home, and endless video calls. 

Many people might think that working remotely is an introvert’s dream: working in the comfort of your own home in your pyjamas hidden behind a computer. But the truth is remote working is kind of a nightmare for introverts, the worst being video calls. short internal meetings, huddles or catchups which used to be done in person last time have all moved to video calls. Adding in external calls, some of us can be on video calls up to 8 hours a day.

Being on camera is a performance. Having a camera in your face means you have to put your game face on throughout. There are none of the nuanced cues that we would usually receive in real life to help you read a room. Staring at heads on a screen offers a pale imitation of real human connection. It takes energy to be switched on all the time. The key to managing remote work is to protect your energy and take regular breaks.

1. Have an everyday routine

As much as we hated our daily commute to work, they were a ritual that created a boundary between work and home. Waking up an hour before work starts and get some personal time to yourself, getting your coffee at Starbucks and making small talk with the barista; a casual chat with your colleague. All these help us to ease into the work day. To recreate such rituals at home, head down to the nearest cafe for a coffee break, have a pep talk with a friend, or do some simple chores at home. All these can be therapeutic and help to ensure the lines between home and work do not get blurred.

2. Pace yourself

You can think of pacing as managing the interactions that tax your energy versus those that recharge you. You could schedule fewer video calls, or plan some downtime time after performances. Oprah does this, as do many high performers and CEOs. This helps to replenish your energy and keep your productivity high.

3. Make a workspace

For many of us, working remotely means that the lines between home and work blur, as we lose track of what is what. To avoid this we can set good boundaries for our workspace at home. if the kitchen is the place where you do your work, set it up such that it really feels like your workstation in office. For breaks, factor in some downtime in between work and calls by going somewhere else in the house such as balcony, main bedroom etc. When you are finished with work, leave the workspace and head to another room.

4. Audio over Video

Favor audio over video calls. Research has shown that we actually communicate more emotion and nuance via audio alone. Try other methods of communication for more complicated or thought-provoking one-on-ones. For example, you could record a voice memo or video on your phone explaining your perspective and send it to a colleague.This way, they can respond and react in their own time. 

Remote work is here to stay for a long time, so don’t transfer old habits and old company culture to remote work. Ingrain good habits and boundaries to keep your mood, energy level and productivity high.