When you first started working from home, you may have found it freeing and fun. Remote work can give you a chance to create a better work-life balance. Research has even shown that working from home can actually result in increased productivity. However, remote work can become difficult at any point. This way of working makes it too easy to blur the work and home boundaries until you find yourself with WFH burnout or Zoom fatigue. Here are some tips on how to recognize and address the signs.
Why WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue Happen
Work from home is not always as fun as you might have expected. For several reasons, burnout can happen. How can that be when you have so much more freedom? Perhaps it is because you have not yet learned how to manage the challenges of working remotely. Here are some of the factors that contribute to WFH burnout.
WFH Burnout Causes
Some of the causes of WFH burnout are related to new worries, unfamiliar responsibilities, and a completely different environment. Here are some that might contribute to your stress.
You may have to take care of your children and family responsibilities during your workday. When you worked at the office, you could set those duties aside while you focused on your job.
Your manager might expect you to do things differently than before. They may even demand that you do more work.
You might not have everything you need to do your job. While some employers ensure that their staff has all the same equipment they did at the office, others do not. After all, buying one of each item is much more expensive than buying a total of one to share among many workers.
Although your remote work may have started to save the company at the beginning of the pandemic, you may feel uncertain about what will happen next. Will you still work remotely? Will your job still be there at all? Doubts and fears about this situation can lead to anxiety.
Your company may have adopted a different work schedule. Or you might have chosen alternative hours for yourself. The problem here is that whether you choose it or not, a new work schedule requires a period of adjustment.
Zoom Fatigue Causes
Zoom fatigue is a special case of WFH burnout. When the need arose for employees to work from home, companies searched for tools to make it more like an in-person job. One of the solutions nearly every business settled on was using Zoom or other electronic communications channels for managers to connect with employees. So, if you are a manager working remotely, chances are you spend a great deal of time having virtual meetings.
While in the past, you might have used email, messaging, or phone calls to relay instructions or check in on your staff, now you are in their virtual presence much of the day. Having meetings through online platforms is much different from meeting face-to-face in the same room, too. What’s more, these differences can contribute to Zoom fatigue.
You get much more eye-to-eye contact than usual.
You cannot move around as much.
It takes more thought to interpret what everyone is saying because it is harder to read nonverbal cues and body language.
You see yourself in the corner of the screen, which could cause you to judge yourself harshly.
What Do WFH Burnout and Zoom Fatigue Look Like?
Suppose you are concerned that you are putting your job above your mental health. Then, the first step to getting better is to recognize signs of trouble. The signs of WFH burnout may be easy to notice, but you might not realize the burnout causing them. Here are symptoms to watch for when you have been working from home.
WFH Burnout Symptoms
Work from home burnout shows up in your work, your home life, and your physical and mental health. Watch for the following signs that you may be experiencing WFH burnout.
Your productivity at work suffers.
You have physical signs, like digestive issues, heart palpitations, or headaches.
You feel emotionally bad when you think about work.
You become forgetful or cannot concentrate on your tasks.
You sleep too much or develop insomnia.
You feel tired and irritable, and your temper flares.
You need a new way to deal with anxiety about your work and home situation.
You have symptoms of depression.
Zoom Fatigue Symptoms
Zoom fatigue is really a variety of types of fatigue mixed together. You’re tired, but what are you tired of, exactly?
Your eyes are tired, so your vision blurs, and your eyes become irritated and painful.
You spend too much time closely interacting with coworkers or managers, so you do not want to go out and socialize after your workday is done. Perhaps you do not even want to spend time with your family. So, your relationships suffer, and you become isolated.
You become physically and mentally exhausted by the end of each Zoom meeting.
Your motivation disappears as you worry about not being able to complete your assignments or fulfill all your work duties. You lack energy, and you feel dread at the thought of doing your work.
You feel emotionally fatigued, moody, or irritable.
Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout
Your WFH burnout may begin to ease if you take a few positive steps. Here are some ways you can set yourself up for a more relaxing, manageable, and productive work and home life.
Put some structure into your day. Often, when people work from home, they open themselves up to being at everyone’s beck and call. This arrangement makes you feel rushed and overburdened. By blocking off time for each type of task as well as your home responsibilities and interactions, you can feel less pressured. You will ultimately enjoy your day more.
Set and hold to your boundaries. Talk to your team as well as your family to let them know when you will be available to them and when you will not. Then, stick to what you say. Your coworkers and your family will learn the routine, and your life will become less hectic.
Take breaks regularly. You can go to another part of your home, take a walk, or just get up from your desk and look at the scenery outside your window. Take breaks when work seems overwhelming, but also take breaks at regular intervals to avoid WFH symptoms from happening in the first place.
Getting some exercise has many benefits. Moving and challenging your body will help you stay physically fit while it calms your emotions. After exercise, you think more clearly, feel increased energy and motivation, and work more productively, too.
Eat and sleep well. By being sure to eat the right amount of healthy foods and get enough sleep, you prepare your body to handle the stress of the day.
Tips to Avoid Zoom Fatigue
To avoid Zoom fatigue, it helps to make some rules for yourself to follow during video calls. Here are a few tips to help you do that.
Avoid visual overload by reducing what you see on the screen. Only have a browser window or document open when you need to use it. This will cut your visual fatigue.
Do not try to do other things during a video conference. Stick to the call, then do the other things later. In Zoom meetings, it is always best to avoid multi-tasking whenever you can.
Hide the window showing your face. There is really no benefit to looking at yourself all day. Maybe look at it for a few seconds to be sure you are showing up as you wish. Then, hide it and focus only on the other people and the business you are conducting.
Rather than going from one video call to another back-to-back, give yourself a short break between them. The small amount of time you are on break will only increase your productivity at the next meeting.
What to Do If the Tips Don’t Help Enough
For mild cases of WFH burnout, following the tips above may ease the strain on your physical and mental health. It can certainly prevent Zoom fatigue and work from home burnout if you begin before any symptoms appear. However, while WFH burnout is not a diagnosis in itself, it can become an emotional or mental problem if it continues too long.
If your burnout is affecting your mental health and relationships, talking to a well-trained therapist can help you put the problems in the past. With a caring counselor using evidence-based psychological treatments, you can deal not only with the WFH burnout but also with any related issues.
Lukin Center for Psychotherapy provides therapy as well as a variety of excellent resources for remote workers. At our eight locations in New Jersey, we offer therapy for people who live in our state and nearby communities in New York. In addition, if you live farther away or prefer teletherapy, we are happy to help you with that, too. With the right help, you can overcome the pressures and stresses of working from home to enjoy and thrive in your job and during your off-work time, as well.
Is Zoom fatigue tanking your productivity and straining your home life?
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Lukin Center for Psychotherapy in Ridgewood, Hoboken, Montclair, Jersey City and Englewood. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.
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