Updated blog from January 2021
We’re passionate about what we do here at Bloom Growth. We love our clients and partners, and we get seriously jazzed about new projects and growth opportunities. With that said, we’re also very aware of the rise in professional burnout, specifically in companies that aren’t usually remote. As a 100% remote team, we’re well-versed in what it takes to navigate this new modern work environment. Stick with us, and you’ll be identifying issues and hammering out solutions in no time!
Signs of professional burnout
Burnout isn’t always easy to identify; it’s similar to a lot of other issues, like stress, exhaustion, anxiety, etc. The difference is that burnout is always related to your job. The most common identifiers are:
• General, unexplained exhaustion
• Cynicism toward tasks, responsibilities or colleagues that aren’t normally there
• Uncontrollable guilt for lack of efficiency or productivity
• Feeling like you’re no longer good at what you do
• Inability to relax
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Reduced efficacy
• Frequently irritable, even outside of work
• Overwhelmed by even small requests
• Negativism and difficulty concentrating
• High blood pressure, poor immune function, reoccurring headaches or muscle pain
• Feeling disconnected from your job and other interests
• Stopping normal self-care routines
Yikes…talk about feelings we do not want to have at work! But here’s the good news: Burnout is preventable and reversible. If you start feeling professional burnout (or if you just want to stay ahead of it), we’ve compiled a list of ways to help ease those stressful feelings.
Tip #1: Create a dedicated workspace
This is especially important for those who needed to make an abrupt shift to working from home. Going from an office atmosphere to crouched over your kitchen table isn’t anyone’s idea of a great transition. Give yourself the space you need to get in the zone while you work. This can be anything from turning your storage room into a home office, to a corner of the living room that’s juuust big enough for a desk and chair. Having a dedicated space for work helps flip that mental “switch” that keeps you motivated and productive.
Or… create multiple workspaces!
We’re not beating around this bush; working from home can be a real challenge but it’s also important to note that working from home has countless advantages, one of which is the freedom to work wherever you want.
With remote work, you can create multiple workspaces around your home to switch things up throughout the day. This could mean setting up a desk in your bedroom, living room, or even outside on your patio. Working from different locations can keep you motivated and productive while allowing you to enjoy the comfort of being at home. Additionally, having access to multiple workspaces gives you the flexibility to move around as needed throughout the day, such as taking a break in your backyard or grabbing lunch in your kitchen. Working from home provides an unprecedented level of freedom that allows you to customize your workspace and workday according to what best suits your needs and lifestyle.
Tip #2: Set boundaries
Do you check your email from bed before falling asleep and again when you wake up? Have you started eating lunch in front of your computer? These habits seem harmless, but if the lines between “working” and “not working” are fuzzy, it can create mental fatigue that leads to physical stress.
If your company has set hours, stick to those hours. If your work situation allows flex time, create your own “set hours,” and stick with those (this includes setting aside time for a lunch break!). The more structure you have throughout the day, the more mental energy you’ll save by not being on your toes all the time.
Here are some tips to define and protect your boundaries when you’re working from home:
- Set a schedule and stick to it—As mentioned above, make sure you set aside specific times for work and other activities, such as family and leisure time. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand and prevent burnout.
- Take regular breaks—Breaks are essential for staying productive and energized throughout the day. Take regular breaks to give yourself time to rest and recharge.
- Communicate with family members—Let your family know that when you’re working, they can help you by respecting your need for focus and privacy. If necessary, create a “do not disturb” sign or set up a designated workspace away from distractions.
- Communicate with your team—Establish clear communication channels with your team so that everyone is on the same page about expectations and deadlines. This will help ensure that everyone is held accountable for their tasks and responsibilities. To take this a step further, maintain a document listing your team’s preferred communication channels and styles. Do you prefer slack, jumping on zoom? Email?
- Remove distractions—Some might say “limit distractions by turning off notifications.” I’m proposing removing distractions to stay focused. Personally, I delete distracting apps every weeknight before I go to bed (for me, that’s Instagram and YouTube) to wake up distraction-free and start my day right. If there are apps you just can’t stay away from, get rid of them during the day to be more intentional about how you’re spending your time.
Tip #3: Schedule brain breaks
Did you know that working too much can actually lead to decreased productivity? Here’s a fun story to help you visualize this:
Two woodcutters were in a competition to see who could cut down more trees by the end of the day. The first was an experienced woodcutter older in years and the second was a younger, stronger man eager to prove his ability.
Both men set out to chopping. After about an hour or so the more experienced man paused, sat down to take a break and invited the other to join him. The younger, stronger woodcutter replied, “No way! I’m going to keep chopping and I’m going to beat you.”
“Suit yourself,” said the experienced man. This pattern repeated itself several times throughout the day. Every so often the experienced man would pause his chopping to rest, while the younger stronger woodcutter kept chopping away.
At the end of the day when the two woodcutters compared to see who had chopped more wood, the younger & stronger woodcutter was astonished to find that the older woodcutter who kept taking breaks had chopped a significantly greater amount of wood. He said, “How is that even possible? You spent far less time chopping than I did. I’m stronger and never once stopped cutting down trees. What is your secret?”
The experienced man said, “every time I sat down, I was sharpening my axe.”
Or: You’re halfway through your day, and you realize you’ve been staring at a blank spreadsheet that should have been filled out by now. This is your cue to take a brain break. Stepping away from the task at hand will give you space to clear your head while mitigating stress and distractions. Once you’re centered, you can get right back to coming up with brilliant and creative ideas like we know you do! How’s that for some much-needed inspo?
Tip #4: Stay active
You don’t need to be a health and wellness expert to make it through this one. We don’t expect you to go out and train for a marathon over lunch (unless you want to, of course), but if you sprinkle small physical activities into your day, the benefits will really add up!
Some ideas to keep your blood flowing:
• Take a walk around the block after finishing a big task
• Invest in a standing desk—really, it helps!
• Walk to a local restaurant for lunch—without Slack!
• Desk yoga
• Set a step goal (that you could track in a personal metrics in Bloom Growth!)
Tip #5: Take time off
There’s a trap that remote workers often fall into: Working when they shouldn’t be. When you take a personal day, you’re not actually too far removed from your workspace. So what could possibly happen if you check emails real quick, or just finish that one project once and for all? Well…burnout could happen.
If you don’t separate yourself from your work on a regular basis, you will have a hard time recharging. This is extremely important for productivity, efficiency and creativity. Staying constantly connected isn’t doing you (or your company) any favors. If you have vacation days, take them, even if it’s just a half day. Your mind and energy levels will thank you for it.
Here in the Bloom marketing department, we’re trying a new experiment to nurture healthy work/life balance—rotating four day work weeks. Each month, one team member works four days a week. We then rotate on a (flexible) schedule who has the next turn. So far, we’re only one month into the trial but we can already tell this is something we want to keep around!
Tip #6 Keep communication open
Humans are social creatures, and spending all day working alone can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. No matter how introverted a person may be, they still need to know other humans are out there! Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to socialize with your team, even if it’s just a scheduled check-in at the beginning of a meeting.
Some fun socializing opportunities are:
• Having virtual lunch together
• Dedicating a message string to fun/non-work topics
• Scheduling a happy hour or game night at the end of the work day
Here are some unconventional ways to bond with your team while working remotely.
It’s normal to feel lonely when you don’t see people on a regular basis. When you take steps to care of yourself throughout the workday, the burnout you feel will slowly start to subside.