Why working from home is so exhausting
COVID-19 has caused fundamental changes in the ways we work. You’re likely working from home and navigating new terrain in terms of how to get work done, collaborate and perform in the face of plenty of new constraints.
You’re also likely to be exhausted, but you may not understand why. After all, you’re not enduring your commute and you’re “just” sitting at home on videoconference. You have access to snacks from your pantry anytime and you’re not rushing from meeting room to meeting room at your company or driving from customer site to customer site day-after-day.
It turns out, there’s actual logic behind your exhaustion. Here’s why you’re so drained, and perhaps more importantly, what you can do about it:
This isn’t your choice. One of the fundamental elements of good mental health is autonomy, self-expression and a sense of control. Many of us have been sent home and no longer have the choice to go to the office or work in our usual ways. This lack of choice can be frustrating and even disorienting.
The fix: Find ways to infuse choice into your day. Perhaps you can control the sequence of your tasks or the flow of your day. Even planning breaks can give you a sense of some control over how your time is managed.
You have to think about things that used to be automatic. Exhaustion can also occur because of points of friction in your day. Getting connected via technology is rarely seamless and you may have to learn new sharing software to co-create with your team from a distance.
The fix: Keep at it. As new ways of working become typical, and as you learn new technologies, they will become more automatic and your brain will be able to put less effort into them.
You miss people. One of the great things about work is the regular connections we get to make with those who aren’t necessarily part of our immediate circle. Your network has likely been reduced and you may be missing your friends and experiencing some grief.
The fix: Reach out and connect in new ways. This may seem unusual at first but remember others are likely feeling the same angst as you are. It will get easier and you’ll establish new norms to keep you connected.
You’re distracted. Children and spouses or partners can obviously be distracting, especially if you don’t have a dedicated place to work at home. But in addition, you may be distracted by the laundry you know needs to be done or even by the walk you wish you had time to take.
The fix: Make time for the distractions as part of your day. Plan to spend your lunch hour with your family or by getting a breath of fresh air.
The flow of information is overwhelming. In addition to the information you’re actively seeking about the coronavirus and COVID-19, you’re also flooded with more unsolicited information than ever.
The fix: Filter information and prioritize. While you need to stay up-to-date, be firm about your boundaries and give yourself permission to not follow up on every single non-critical email.
You’re not moving. Movement is healthy and critical to your well-being. The fact that you’re not moving across your office or from customer site to customer site may actually be creating more exhaustion.
The fix: Get up and move during meetings. Stand up, sit down or go to the kitchen to grab another cup of tea. You might also consider taking micro-breaks where you do a few jumping jacks or walk around the couch a few times (check out our blog post on micro-breaks here).
Working from home is tough, for many good reasons. For now, things may be a struggle, but today’s challenges will shift, and we will return to a new normal with, ideally, plenty of new learning and expanded adaptability.