Work from home burnout: What is it and how to tell you’ve got it

If you’re constantly tired and pissed off this may be you


Whether you’re a student studying for exams or working a job, a lot of people are now getting used to a work-from-home routine. Now that we enter our fourth week of lockdown, we’ve nearly done a month of working, cooking, relaxing and studying all in the same space – are you starting to feel tired, a bit aggy, frustrated and overwhelmed? This is work from home burnout and it sucks.

A clear separation in our home/relaxation environment and our workplace is really key to ensure we work productively when we need to and switch off when the day’s done. This is now impossible, meaning that for most people, their bedroom, lounge or kitchen area (that used to be where they would unwind) is now doubling as their office.

It’s now even harder to switch off because we can’t just walk away from the office or library or uni building and leave work behind. Our laptop now sits on our coffee table, staring at us – a reminder of all the shit we could do/haven’t done/should’ve done when all we want to do is clear our heads and watch Tiger King in peace.

If this all sounds hauntingly familiar and you’re keen to know if you also suffer from WFH burnout, these are the symptoms and how to deal with it.

What is work from home burnout?

WFH burnout is a term coined by Nuffield Health that describes feeling constantly exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed out, which is often felt by people who are working from home and not properly balancing their work and relaxation time.

This lack of balance means you don’t ever really step away from work. Brendan Street, head of emotional wellbeing at Nuffield Health, says overworking is a key trigger for burnout. He told The Metro: “There is a limit to how many hours we can sustainably work in a day, every day, before exhaustion takes over and we find ourselves unable to cope,” he explains, “an occupational phenomenon now defined by the WHO as ‘burnout'”.

What are the symptoms of WFH burnout?

You’re constantly drained. You feel tired all day even though you’ve been sat at your desk most of the day.

You often feel overwhelmed and helpless – you’re probably struggling to put things into perspective and so everything feels like too much of a challenge, even the most menial tasks.

You’re a lot moodier than normal – these mood swings often show in outbursts of anger and irritation. Everything suddenly seems to be getting your nerves.

You constantly check your emails or reopen work/uni documents. You probably do this multiple times between the moment you wake up and just before bed. You may not have much else to do so it’s a bored habit but it stops you properly switching off. This habit might also feed into an underlying sense that you need to be doing work all the time, so you can’t help but check.

All of the above feelings can easily be misconstrued as symptoms of stress which might make you think you need to do more, when in fact you need to step away and chill.

How to deal with burnout

Firstly, speak to your boss or supervisor. The current situation isn’t ideal for anyone and the people above you know this – they’re probably struggling just as much as you. If you don’t take care of yourself, being burntout can lead to anxiety, depression and panic attacks – it’s important to get the help you need.

Schedule downtime. Now that we’re unable to walk away from our work, we need to be more disciplined with when to stop and switch off. When your working day is done, put everything away. Put your laptop, books, etc into a cupboard so you can relax in the evening without being reminded of work. Delete your email app and any other work-related apps from your phone, or better yet, put your phone away for the rest of the day. Set yourself a film to watch or a meal to cook or a workout to do – let off some steam, chill and forget about work.

Take regular breaks. No one can work solidly for the whole day, you’re entitled to breaks and this will allow you to work more productively.

Use support. If you start to feel especially overwhelmed and think it needs to go further than your boss or supervisor, seek professional help and advice on the Nuffield Health support page. You can also call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or contact your GP.

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