Working-From-Home Burnout is Real

Burnout can happen when you work from home too

May 4, 2020 

Thanks to COVID-19, some of us are working from home to avoid spreading the virus linked to the disease. And so, it might sound silly to ask this, but when was the last time you stepped away from work? You know; didn’t make one last check of email or texts, get involved in one more Zoom meeting, or worry about an upcoming project.

It turns out workplace burnout isn’t limited to putting in long hours at work. It also happens while working from home in sweats and slippers, hunkered down over the kitchen table. The risk of work burnout is intensified because of the speed at which our lives were upended by working from home as well as the challenge in trying to distinguish between work hours and home hours. Think about it, there’s a clear distinction between work life and personal time when you go into work. Without a commute time, you can end up working all of the time; or a least a lot more of the time.

Health professionals admit the shutdown of society is making people anxious, but it is working to stop the virus.

“I completely understand people’s frustrations,” said Michael “Dee” Gunn, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. “But the people that are advocating that we eliminate social distancing right now and that we just open everything up are really advocating that every single person in the country become infected with coronavirus. Because that’s what will happen if you throw things wide open. If you like your grandmother, you might not want to do that.”

So here’s a few tips to prevent work-from-home burnout.

1. Set your work hours and communicate them to your boss and colleagues. It’s also helpful to set an activity that marks the end of the work-day like a bike ride, run or dog walk.
2. Create a schedule, including setting the alarm, time for exercise, and even family time.
3. Make time for social connections, not just for colleagues but also family and friends. Because all of the hours in a day seem to blend together, setting social time can be challenging, but it’s worth it.

And if that’s not enough to think about, there’s one other concern: Computer Vision Syndrome. Yep, it’s real and It’s a broad term that describes conditions that happen when you stare at a computer or smartphone screen for too long. That includes working, watching movies, or scrolling your news feed. Best advice- keep that screen about two feet away from your eyes. Make sure the center of the screen is just below eye level. And take a break from the screen every 15-30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be long, but just give your eyes something else to look at.

—Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.