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How to Avoid Overworking When Working From Home

Posted by David Quigley on May 15, 2020

All of a sudden...

It’s a different world.

Many of us are now working from home.

Nobody, employee nor employers, got much notice. No one really had time to prepare. Understandably, going into this remote work situation, some employers were a bit concerned about employee productivity. But what they should really be concerned about is — employee burnout.

The risk is real. When the line between home and office becomes fuzzy, it’s not always clear when to “turn off” for the day. This is especially true for those folks who are new to working remotely.

They’re the ones who are most likely to struggle with that optimal work/life balance. To them, it’s a symbol of their loyalty and dedication to be on the clock, 10, 12, 15 hours a day... including the weekends. But what quickly happens is they lose their sense of downtime.

If this situation lasts into the summer and fall months, well, it’s just a matter of time before the cumulative effect becomes too much for even the best employee.

Scientific studies tell us that a definite boundary between our professional and personal lives is essential for our overall mental health. But that’s easier said than done with the ubiquitous cell phone. Who hasn’t gotten an email from their boss after work hours? And when you receive that message, you feel compelled to respond immediately — even if it’s not urgent.

So what’s the best way to separate personal and professional time?  It varies depending on the person, the position and the firm, but here are a few ideas that could help:

  1. Keep your distance

If you don’t already, get up in the morning and put on the clothes you’d normally wear to work (even if it’s a hoodie). In doing so, you’ve crossed an important boundary into the “work” world. You might even think about a quick walk around the block to simulate your commute. The key is to put yourself in a “working” frame of mind.

  1. Keep track of your time

It’s way too easy to work right through lunch and keep cranking well past 5. And with our phones attached to our hips, work is literally with us wherever we go.

And even though a 9-to-5 routine may not fit everyone’s day, at least try to schedule a hard stop for lunch and another at the end of the day. You’d do it if you had to catch a train or pick up the kids. You need that break.

  1. Prioritize your to-do list

Now’s the time to weed out work like filing and cleaning out your inbox. Buckle down and focus on your most important projects.

A lot of employees will feel obligated to show co-workers, the boss and the management how busy they are. But busy work isn’t doing anyone any good right now. It’s actually counterproductive. It’s keeping you from “big wins.” You need to take a long, hard look at your priority list and tackle the top-tier tasks first.

But — that piece of advice comes with a CAUTION:

YOU WILL BE INTERRUPTED. In most companies, the average-knowledge worker is producing at a high level about three hours a day. Because, you guessed it, of all the interruptions, distractions, phone calls, emails, meetings or multitasking. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, hardly anyone could block out three straight hours to work on their top priority tasks. And now with work, personal time, kid time and family time all blending together, boundaries are becoming even more blurred. That’s why you have to redouble your efforts to keep them in place.

No one knows how long this lockdown will go on, but by having boundaries, you could avoid an eventual burnout down the road.

If you’re feeling the effects of the quarantine, J&C can help. Whether you need to craft a customer message during the COVID-19 crisis or need a strategy for the “new normal,” J&C is experienced in motivating customers to act. With new customer behaviors and new consumer patterns developing, direct response channels and tactics should be built into your re-evaluated marketing strategies.

Contact me at dquigley@jacobsclevenger.com. I’ll show you how we’ve helped other companies like yours get through uncertain times.

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Topics: Productivity

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