Let’s talk about: Burnout

I have promised you all a deeper delve into the interplay between productivity, efficiency & effectiveness; I promise that is coming.

In the meantime I decided to take a detour towards another pressing issue: work-from-home Burnout.

In ’normal’ times, we have an excellent antidote to regular burnout, the Holiday. Remember those? We would take a holiday to get away from our normal life, to explore the world or see friends who lived abroad. But it served a very important purpose that a lot of us seem to have forgotten: to get away from work. Now that we can’t travel, a lot of people don’t want to take their annual leave. “Where would I go, and what would I do” they ask?

If you can’t take time off work to recharge & maintain your energy levels, there are so many other things you can do to stop yourself burning out during lockdown. I’ve summarised a few of them below: – let me know what you think.

Accept unproductiveness:

The Bloomberg article linked below makes the argument that we should bank for 1 unproductive day each week (think how many unproductive hours you might have in an office each day – according HBR (again, article below) we average 3 productive hours a day). The key message I would summarise is: don’t be so unrealistic in your expectations of your remote working expectations.

Every minute can’t be productive, and every day won’t be a winner. When we’re in an office we have good days and bad days, and when you work from home it’ll be the same. So as long as you keep to your committed meetings and meet your key objectives for the week then do what you need to get you there. If you need a long walk one day, have it. If you need a nap, take it.

Also, plan for unproductiveness. If your day looks too busy, put in an hour in your diary for ‘tea & deal with emails’ to block out meetings and give yourself some headspace. Remember our unconscious mind is working on issues even as we read news articles, so put guilt to one side and give yourself what you need to have the productive bursts you need.


Break up tasks with something joyful, even if it’s just a few minutes. Make a cup of tea, spend 5 minutes with your dog / child / planning for the future with your best friend or partner. Cook a nice lunch. Go and sit by the river with a tin of Gin & Tonic and watch the sunset. Remember the beautiful things about life that we are all fighting for, even when here is so much hurt right now.

If the section above didn’t already convince you and you need an argument for the importance of peppering your day with joy, take a look at this TikTok (I KNOW, I’m modern these days….) by Dr Julie Smith.

Human Connection

Contact a few caring people outside your household every day (maybe aim for at least one, and outperform!). This is even more important for those of us that live alone – when I’m alone I contact my parents & my 4 best friends almost daily, and there are a number of other close friends I am in fairly frequent contact with. FaceTime dinners & coffees are important, and just a quick chat is valuable too.

Make sure you reach out to your neighbours and the vulnerable too, and don’t be afraid of chatting with strangers you meet on a dog walk or at a coffee shop.

Remember, Remotely Connected was started to try and boost this one factor, and we are building a way for you to connect with others in your area who need an in-person coffee or a virtual mentor.

Boundary crossing activities

Ask yourself, what is the best thing about your commute? Obviously, it’s getting home, but why? It’s because you are crossing the boundary between home & work – you can try to leave behind the stresses of the day and focus on your personal life. So how can you bring that separation into your “WFH” life?

A few ideas (and welcome your suggestions):

-workout at the start or end of the day. I personally play this by ear depending how I feel on any given day. Sometimes I love to get my workout done first thing so that I’m dressed & energised. Other times I would prefer the extra time reading in bed, so I finish the day with a workout and a shower to mentally close off from work

-get changed between work & home. This is not one I’ve ever gone for; I’m too lazy to change out of my work clothes when I get home! But I would certainly advocate for getting properly dressed in the morning, at least out of your pyjamas. You may want to get into loungewear at the end of the day to tell your brain it’s time to relaaaax – see how this works for you

-go for a walk around the block. Self-explanatory, but remember you have extra commute to get out for a short walk / cycle before and after work

-have a ritual ending to the day. Maybe not every day, but I reckon a drink to mark the move into ’non-work’ time is no bad thing in moderation. There are a tonne of alternatives too; maybe you have a hobby you’d like to do for an hour at the end of the day – reading, knitting, cooking, photography, writing? Use your extra time to do something you know gives you joy or develops you and that you do not associate with work

-speak to a non-work friend. I like to schedule a social with friends just as I would on a Wednesday or Thursday evening. Just as with a dinner or drinks, an hour on the phone to a close friend will help me decompress and remember who I am

-set time boundaries. I know this just isn’t possible for everyone, I get it. But if you can I would highly recommend setting a timeframe you know you operate well in, and try to stick to working only within those hours. It helps if you’re lucky enough to have a work area in your home (I have an area of my living room, not a whole room) so that you can shut the computer, leave your work phone in a drawer and detach from them until the morning. If you reach for your phone, stop and ask yourself: can it wait until tomorrow morning? 80% of the time, the answer is yes. Just because someone emails you, doesn’t mean you need to respond then.

Links / Sources:

All of this is with thanks to Hannah, for sharing some of the below and all her support:

Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-21/how-to-revamp-your-coronavirus-routine-to-avoid-burnout

HBR: https://hbr.org/2020/04/3-tips-to-avoid-wfh-burnout

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