Navigating the Virtual Workplace: How to Avoid WFH Burnout

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Working from home (WFH) is part of the new corporate norm, but it comes with an “always on” feeling that makes it difficult to stop working. If you find yourself working late into the night (or barely working at all), this article is for you!

Get Clear About Online WFH Expectations

It can be really confusing to start a new job that’s exclusively remote. Work norms that are obvious in the office can be ambiguous or nonexistent when everyone’s at home. For example, you might wonder what the expectation is regarding work messages. Are you expected to respond to them around the clock or only during work hours? How quickly are you expected to respond?

Don’t leave yourself wondering! Ask your boss to clarify the expectations around work messages, emails, and any other online communications so there aren’t any misunderstandings.

For example, you might say:
“Hi (Boss’ Name),
I wanted to double-check your expectations with regard to team communication. What is the expected response time for team messages? Would we ever be expected to respond outside of work hours? Thanks for your clarification!” 

Set Clear WFH Boundaries from the Start

Once you know what your boss expects of you, it’s time to think about what you want from the role. Do you want to be available 24/7 if it might eventually get you a promotion, or is your private time sacred? Think about the ways you want to stand out at work and how you hope to accomplish that.

Remember, you’re setting a standard for yourself on your first day. If you perform very highly, you’ll be expected to perform to that standard all the time. While it’s always great to do your best work, don’t get overzealous and burn yourself out!

For example, if replying to work messages outside work hours stresses you out (and it’s not expected in your role), don’t download the app on your phone and don’t ever reply to a message outside business hours. If you set this expectation right away, you won’t get stuck doing it later on. Trust me, your future self will thank you!

Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish

This little rule can go a long way in preserving your mental health, especially if you find yourself constantly thinking about work on your own time. When you start a new task late in the day, you open a whole can of worms in your brain. You introduce a bunch of new questions and problems that you might not have time to solve. For example, if you’re a web designer and you start working on a new layout half an hour before you sign off, you’re going to be thinking about all the different ways you could set up that page, all night!

Instead of starting something new, use the end of the workday to finish up small tasks, like responding to emails or completing the last of a project. If you have nothing to finish up, use the extra time to make a to-do list or outline a plan for tomorrow.

This way, you won’t have any lingering work thoughts after hours. You’ll sign off feeling accomplished and prepared for tomorrow.

Start a Conversation

If you feel safe doing so, starting a conversation about work-life balance at the office can benefit everyone. It’ll help you, your coworkers, and your boss to have a healthy relationship with work, so you can all be happier and more productive.

Not sure how to bring up the topic with your boss or coworkers? Here are a few ways to do so:

  • I was wondering if you had any tips for me on work-life balance. I find myself thinking about work a lot after hours and wondered if you had any suggestions for me.
  • I’ve been working a lot of overtime lately, and I noticed you have been too. I wondered if you had any ideas about how we could make the workload more manageable for ourselves and the team in the long run.
  • I’ve heard about flexible work schedules and “no-email after hours” policies really helping with work-life balance. They can even increase productivity! Is that something we could explore? 

Approach the conversation respectfully and make it clear that your intention is to do your job to the best of your ability. Your boss might struggle with the same issues, and you can come up with a solution together!

It can be overwhelming to make the switch from a physical office to a work-from-home role. Luckily, you can make it more manageable by being mindful of your work-life balance. Getting clear about your boss’ expectations and your personal boundaries will help you work from home without burning out. You can do it!

Contributed by:
by Jennifer McKay, TalentEgg.ca
TalentEgg.ca is Canada’s leading job board and online career resource for college and university students and recent graduates.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. It can be overwhelming to make the switch from a physical office to a work-from-home role. Luckily, you can make it more manageable by being mindful of your work-life balance. Getting clear about your boss’ expectations and your personal boundaries will help you work from home without burning out. You can do it! https://studyfy.com/

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