Burnout prevention: simple tips for home workers

Written on 
April 14, 2020

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Working from home may be the most productive work model going, but it comes with a heightened risk of employee burnout. First there’s the issue of over-engagement: remote employees work longer hours and take fewer breaks than their office peers. Then there are self-management stresses: with no one around, home workers are individually responsible for regulating their performance and staying on-task.

But for those working from home in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are even more pressures to consider. Once you add in the uncertainties of the current global situation, anxiety for family and friends, and the emotional toll of social isolation, a huge proportion of the global workforce seems headed for certain burnout (and that’s in addition to essential workers on the front lines).

So what can you do to stay afloat? By staying conscious of how it’s affecting you and introducing measures to boost your resilience. Here are just a few burnout prevention tips for home workers – as recommended by the remote workers of Memory.  

Know what causes remote burnout

Understanding what causes remote employee burnout is essential an essential place to start. It helps you protect against them and recognize any burnout signs early, so you can limit their damage. While we’ve already laid out the main work burnout causes here, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought a unique set of its own to the table, including:

  • a lack of structure or control from making the remote transition overnight
  • Working in a chaotic working environment (particularly if you’re a remote parent)
  • Working too much and not mentally disengaging from work
  • Feeling your work isn’t visible or recognized
  • Taking on too many responsibilities
  • Firefighting unprecedented situations, sometimes singlehandedly
  • Lacking meaningful daily connection
  • Losing connection and rapport with colleagues
  • Losing purpose in your work as a “non-essential worker”
  • Insecurity around the future of your job
  • Poor mental health as a result of lockdown
  • Emotional stress and anxiety for loved ones

Set clear boundaries

Help to keep professional and personal time separate, and bring clear direction to your work by implementing the following:

  • Set daily working hours — knowing exactly when your work day ends
  • Schedule regular breaks and avoid working intensely for more than 90 minutes at a time
  • Be conscious about how you use your breaks – don’t fill them with new stresses or passive interactions
  • Resist the urge to check messages outside work hours – try these 5 boundaries for email
  • Use a shutdown ritual to help disconnect from work, like bookending your work day with exercise.
  • Use anti-distraction apps to help you focus on your important work
  • Have a loose plan for what you want to achieve each week
  • At the end of each day, sketch out tasks for the next
  • Outsource as many low-value tasks as possible – they consume your mental energy without replenishing it


Block notifications when you’re trying to focus, so you don’t get anxious about new messages.


Create stability and structure

Bring order and focus to your day and ensure you don’t work beyond your personal productive benchmark:

  • Have a loose plan for what you want to achieve each week
  • Use time blocking to set a clear time limits for tasks – great for containing unwieldy pieces of work and breaking intimidating ones into manageable chunks
  • At the end of each day, sketch out tasks for the next – it establishes self-expectations so you don’t work beyond them
  • Document any overtime and adjust your schedule to counterbalance it
Before clocking off, check your schedule to ensure you’re ready for any early morning meetings. – Mathias

Stay visible and be heard

People won’t know what you’re dealing with unless you tell them. Help to keep your efforts, achievements and challenges visible:

  • Track daily working hours with your team so managers know where you are against your weekly capacity and help balance your workload
  • Create spaces for feedback – like regular one-to-one meetings with your manager in addition to weekly team meetings
  • Self-advocate and spell out what you’ve worked on, what you’ve achieved and what blocked you – short weekly Basecamp update is great for this
Tools like Timely help to keep everyone’s workload visible.

Prioritize your wellbeing

You may feel pressured to work harder than ever to signal your commitment to your employer, but supporting your mental health should always take priority:  

  • Work meaningful human contact into each day to strengthen relationships and support networks – check out these ideas for virtual socializing
  • Try and exercise every day – there are a ton of activities you can do inside (a few examples from WHO) if you aren’t able to leave the house to exercise
  • Take time off – it might not seem to be an option right now, but this is a fundamental entitlement for your labor
  • Remember you can use sick days to manage your mental health – it’s just as important as your physical health
  • Structure your downtime, creating loose plans for what you want to do after work each day
Our team has a scheduled virtual “fruit break” at the same time every day that anyone can join for a breather. – Maxime

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