Setting up a motivating workspace and practicing positive physical habits are among the ways you can reduce stress. To make your efforts towards your own wellbeing even more successful, there are four activities to add to your schedule to avoid burnout.
During this season of quarantine, we’ve come to realize the importance of human connection. While some might consider it a mere luxury, psychologists widely recognize it as a basic need. Love and belonging are set in the center of the pyramid illustrating Abraham Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs. Belonging leads us to gain acceptance, attention, and support – things we could all use during this uncertain time.
In a study conducted of 350 of its employees, Microsoft found the effort for human interaction increase in various ways across their system. Overall, weekly meeting time rose by 10%. However, these additional meeting times seem to be conducted more efficiently with meetings of 30 minutes or less increasing by 22%. Among peers, scheduled one-on-ones grew by 18% and social meetings (such as theme happy hours) were up by 10% in a month.
Tracking these interactions also showed less structured office hours… territory where stress arrives, and it’s difficult to avoid burnout. Pre-pandemic, instant messaging during standard lunch hours decreased by 25%. In the new normal, lunchtime instant messaging activity only declined by 10% indicating many chose to eat through their midday meal. Additionally, instant messages between 6:00 PM and midnight went up by 52%. This type of schedule provides fertile ground for burnout to grow.
Now more than ever, you need to be very intentional with your relationships. Consider how you spend your time, making sure that key relationships receive the attention they need.
With “you time,” I’m not referencing time spent for you, the reader (I’ll get to that next). “You time” in this case means moments you spend focusing on others… when your thoughts are using the pronoun “you” instead of “me.”
In today’s world, it does not take long to see others in need. Due to mass layoffs and historically high rates of unemployment, food banks need donations. Social justice organizations nationwide are the most active they have been since the 1960s. In this election year, no matter your party affiliation, campaigns gladly welcome your energy to promote their candidate.
Volunteering may take new forms as we continue to practice social distancing. In person opportunities may be more limited in the number of participants or the hours. Some organizations have converted systems to allow you to donate your time through virtual methods. However you give of your “you time,” the benefits of volunteering are many, including helping you avoid burnout while working from home. Focusing on others for a while gives you a break from running on the treadmill of your own issues.
Extracurricular activities really are anything but “extra” these days; they are a necessity. Whether an interesting semi-professional pursuit or just a hobby, now is the time to be especially purposefully with adding them to your calendar. Commit yourself to these “self” appointments. Incorporating these into your weekly plan will help you maintain the work/life balance that is so easily put in jeopardy when working from home.
Invest in a hobby, one that you’ve loved for years or a new one. Learn a language you’ve always wanted to know. Take an online painting course. Read the books you thought you’d eventually get to someday. Open that Etsy shop friends have recommended you start. These activities expand, exercise, and sharpen your mind. Pick a few to remind yourself you’re more than your job. Now is the time.
With many of your favorite restaurants, watering holes, and hot spots closed or operating with limited seating and hours, a simple gathering isn’t as simple as it used to be. Time with friends requires more strategic planning, but the mental and emotional benefits are worth the effort.
Schedule Zoom happy hours. One of the good parts of using online tools is you no longer have to limit yourself to friends in your zip code. Reach out to friends and family in different cities. Introduce friends scattered through the country who otherwise may have never met. Vary it up by creating themes or contest or playing online games like Cards Against Humanity or Heads Up.
If you’re working to cut back on your screen time, invite friends to a responsible and socially distanced tailgate party. Find a park, parking lot or parking garage that would allow access. If large enough, offer your backyard to host while adhering to safe distance guidelines. Set up a screen to project a sporting event (either a vintage one or one from a sport currently active) or a movie. Let the event be BYOF&B (Bring Your Own Food & Beverage) so there’s no concern on passing plates or sharing containers.
Yes, this is a great time to binge watch “Friends” and “The Office,” but be sure to spend time with your real friends to help you feel more balanced when it’s time to go to your home office.
During quarantine, you likely are getting more uninterrupted time with your partner than you ever expected. The concept of a “date night” might have you think, “Why? Aren’t I seeing this person all the time now?” Yes, you are which is perhaps even more of a reason to plan a date night.
Instead of watching the news, taking care of the kids, or doing chores around the house, have a night (or at least a few hours) intentionally focused on you and your partner. Creatively recreate some of your famous dates with an at-home twist. Focus the conversation away from coronavirus, the election, and the day-to-day tasks and reconnect with one another. Investing in this key relationship will provide you another source of support to avoid burnout.
Time spent doing something you enjoy or being with those you love feeds your soul. Create these times. Decide that will be part of your day. You may be surprised how it will reset you every part of you and help you feel refreshed when you return to work.
Now that working from home has become a reality for so many, these months have shown the roses and thorns of the it all. When the lines between your personal and professional lives start feeling blurred, confusing, and stressful, consider all three parts of this series to see what changes you can make for your own mental health. Adjusting our lives around COVID-19 has gone on longer than any of us hoped or imagined and looks as though it will continue for the foreseeable future.
Take care of yourself and to avoid burnout so you are able to give yourself both at work and at home, even if, for now, that is the same place.