How to Combat "Telework Fatigue"
Telework fatigue may harm your productivity and work-life balance.
by Lily Lowder
November 9, 2020
While some employees have returned to working on-site, others are still working from home. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reports that in August, an estimated 20% of workers were still telecommuting. For many employees, this month will mark nearly nine months of working from home, since shut-down recommendations were issued in March.
If you're still working from home, you may be experiencing "telework fatigue" - or the burn-out associated with excessive virtual meetings, lack of face-to-face contact, and poor work-life balance. Work from home may be exacerbated by the challenges of managing distance learning for working parents.
Employees can combat the difficulties of working from home by setting a schedule, enforcing boundaries, time blocking, staying active, and taking time off when needed.
1) Set a schedule
A study published in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at worker activity during the pandemic and found that the workday lasted 48.5 minutes longer, workers sent 1.4 more emails a day, and they had more frequent, albeit shorter, meetings than before.
Without a commute to delineate the start and end of the day, work time can easily bleed into your home life. Instead, set a consistent start and end time to your work day. Workers in Germany have a national tradition to demarcate the end of the work day, celebrating it with a hearty pint of beer - a ritual known as the "Feierabend".
2) Enforce boundaries
One of the advantages of working from home is that you can opt for a more flexible schedule that accomodates other responsbilities. However, if your colleagues aren't aware of your flexible schedule (or if they're following their own), they may be contacting you for project updates at all hours of the day.
Make sure that your colleagues are aware of your schedule so that they respect your leisure time. Turn off your phone or disable notifications when you're not working and don't feel compelled to check your email.
While it may be hard to follow these recommendations during busy periods, they're vital to preventing burn-out.
That blurring of the distinction between home and work life really makes it difficult to create hard stops for yourself. You end up just doing a lot of work over longer periods of time because you just don’t have clear guidelines anymore. - Dr. Evan DeFillipis (New York Times)
3) Use time-blocking
Time blocking can combat telework fatigue by evading the dreaded "Zoom fatigue", as well as building in break time.
Time blocking is a time-management tool where you dedicate specific blocks of time towards tasks. For example, if you're overwhelmed by the number of virtual meetings, webinars and conference calls that you've been attending, do your best to schedule them during a specific block of time.
You should also block time for taking breaks. When you're working in the office, you enjoy breaks naturally - chatting around the water cooler with your colleagues or going out for lunch. When taking a break, distance yourself from your work space and focus on something else.
“Zoom fatigue” stems from how we process information over video. On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera.... Having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. - Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy (Harvard Business Review)
4) Stay active
If you used to have an active commute - walking or biking to work - you may feel the telework fatigue more acutely than others. Don't neglect your need to stay active.
Build in time to take a walk or run or go on a bike ride at the beginning or end of the day. You'll reap the benefits of your former commute and come to work more energized.
Even if you didn't have an active commute pre-pandemic, you may still enjoy time outdoors before or after work or during your breaks.
5) Take time off
Although COVID-19 has done away with most people's glitzy vacations, you should still take advantage of time off. Enjoy a few relaxing days away from work! It will help you to come back to work with a clearer perspective and renewed energy.
Working from home is a great option for those that thrive on working independently and appreciate additional flexibility. Following these tips will continue to make telework enjoyable, combating "telework fatigue".
For more guidance and recommendations on teleworking, email Lily Lowder at firstname.lastname@example.org.