May 11, 2020 Coronavirus en_US About 30% of workers who are working from home during the coronavirus outbreak are experiencing burnout. Here are 5 strategies to take care of yourself. How burnout is affecting work-from-home productivity during COVID-19

How burnout is affecting work-from-home productivity during COVID-19

By Katie McBeth May 11, 2020

About 30% of workers who are working from home during COVID-19 report experiencing burnout. That’s according to a recent survey from TSheets by QuickBooks.*

While not a medical condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as chronic, unmanaged workplace stress. And that stress comes in the form of

  • Feelings of low energy or exhaustion.
  • Feelings of cynicism related to one’s job.
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout was the third most significant productivity challenge among respondents. Other productivity challenges included personal distractions and not having proper work equipment.

Of those who reported experiencing burnout, many were also undergoing significant changes in their daily routines. Over a third (37%) were working from home for the first time. And 44% didn’t have a home office or workspace before working from home due to COVID-19. And nearly half reported a decline in their dietary and fitness habits since working from home.

Among those experiencing burnout since working from home, 41% said they attend more meetings. 58% say they take more phone calls. 63% reported an increase in email correspondence. And 52% reported an increase in instant messages.

Meanwhile, 45% reported a slight or substantial decrease in productivity. Many noted the news, social media, and household chores or projects had negative effects on their productivity.

Experts share 5 tips on how to recover from burnout

1. Create a new routine

“Routine can help us structure our day,” says Grace Dowd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). “Many of us have come to rely on our normal daily schedule as a way to transfer ourselves mentally into [home or work] modes.”

For many people, the sudden shift to working from home may have disrupted these routines. But routines are essential for mental and physical health and productivity. They can help you feel productive and focused throughout the workday. Establish a routine with things that make you feel good. Maybe that includes a nutritious breakfast, a daily walk, or an arts and crafts hour.

2. Create boundaries between work and home life

Routines, like your commute, also help you create boundaries between work and home.

“Another way to frame [working from home due to COVID-19] is that you haven’t left your workspace for weeks,” says Jennie Steinberg, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). “Find a way to designate your on-the-clock time so that you know when you’re working and when you aren’t.”

Dowd suggests avoiding work messages and emails after the end of your workday and on your days off. Steinberg suggests creating a designated workspace in your home and wearing work-appropriate clothes while you’re on the clock.

“If you don’t clearly delineate the difference between working and not working, you’ll feel like you’re working all the time,” Steinberg explains.

3. Take regular breaks and decompress

Breaks are important, and balance is essential. Getting your mind off work for even a few minutes can help you stay energized and productive. Practicing self-care after a stressful workday can also help. Find an activity that will help you relax. Consider meditating, exercising, drawing or coloring, or listening to soothing music.

4. Stay connected with friends and family

Working from home could be isolating, even before social distancing. But connecting with friends and family digitally or over the phone may help ease the burden of stay-at-home recommendations. Connect more, and you may feel less alone when you’re overwhelmed.

5. Be kind to yourself

Don’t beat yourself up when you’re feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or frustrated.

“Be kind to yourself,” Steinberg says. “Temper your expectations about your productivity.”

When you were in the office, easy access to work equipment or resources like your IT person may have helped you stay productive. Now that you’re at home, you may be surrounded by distractions. Personal projects, children, pets, the news, and more can all hamper your productivity.

Manage your expectations by recognizing that your environment is different. Everything that wasn’t vying for your attention throughout the workday is now front and center all the time. So be kind and recognize that you’re doing your best in a challenging situation.

*Methodology: TSheets by QuickBooks commissioned Pollfish to survey 3,878 American workers in April 2020, aged 18+, to learn if workers were working from home as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, QuickBooks commissioned Pollfish to survey 1,068 American workers who were working from home due to COVID-19 in April 2020, aged 18+, about their productivity and work habits since transitioning to work from home. Respondents were rewarded for their participation. The poll was conducted on April 22, 2020, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. The margin of error is larger for subgroups. 

QuickBooks designed the survey, and Pollfish sponsored it, and welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original source is cited with attribution to “QuickBooks.” 

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Katie McBeth

Katie McBeth

Prior to joining the QuickBooks marketing team, Katie McBeth spent her time writing for various blogs across the web, including Quiet Revolution, Fortune Magazine, and many more. Her writing focus is on small business management, marketing, and recruitment. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her small private zoo of three cats, two dogs, and dozens of plants. Read more