03.Sep.2020

Allison Epstein

Making Work From Home Work For You

How to Push Through Remote-Work Burnout

176 days.

As I write this, that’s how long everyone at Lipman Hearne has been working entirely from home. Safe to say, the novelty has worn off.

Being able to work from home is a privilege, and one we’re grateful for. But at the same time, we’re communicators and creatives. We know swinging by a co-worker’s desk can spark an idea we’d never have come up with on our own. We dearly miss our whiteboards covered in Post-Its.

(And maybe—just maybe—we miss getting out of the house to work in peace and quiet.)

There’s a strain involved in moving your communication workflow to your kitchen table, and after a while, that strain can take its toll. Here are some of the best ways my team and I have found to push through the work from home burnout and still get the job done.

Match the tool to the task

For a lot of people, Zoom is the platform that hosts more and more of your waking hours. But remember before COVID-19, when you found yourself trapped in endless meetings that could have been emails? There’s no reason to recreate that same broken paradigm at home.

As a stand-in for face-to-face contact, Zoom can be nice in doses. But the mental toll of video conferencing—which strips us of key nonverbal cues like eye contact—is well documented. In many cases, there’s a better option.

Got a quick yes/no question? Send a message on Slack or GChat. Need feedback on a complex deliverable? Email a PDF and let people collect their thoughts. Collaborating with a diverse group? Try a cloud-based document or spreadsheet.

We have so many digital tools at our disposal. Don’t waste energy jamming a square peg into a round hole.

Structure your time

I’ve started greeting people with “Happy Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday” for the sole purpose of reminding myself what day it is. The endless undifferentiated stream of Work From Home life can make it even harder to focus on creative tasks, which require long stretches of strategic thought.

To get around this, I use the classic Pomodoro method: 25 minutes of distraction-free work time, followed by a 5-minute break to check Twitter or play with the cat. There are also collaborative Pomodoro timers online you can use with your coworkers, to add a level of accountability that’s hard to find at home.

Absent the external structure of commuting, attending meetings, and the like, this clear line between on and off helps make the passage of time mean something again. It’s also massively increased my output. Getting eight interrupted hours at home can feel laughably impossible, but it’s much more feasible to block out family members or roommates for 25 productive minutes of writing.

Share the load

The coronavirus has disrupted our usual work patterns. If your workload has declined in recent months, odds are good that some of your coworkers in other departments are swamped like never before. That makes now the perfect time to practice delegating or to pick up some new skills.

Can you pitch in with some research, or finish a project that fell by the wayside during busier times? Raise your hand. Likewise, are there less specialized parts of your job that others could take off your plate? Go ahead and reach out.

We’re all in this together, and we’ll get through it by leaning on one another.

Be kind

We’re living through unprecedented times—so much that we’ve made the phrase “unprecedented times” meaningless trying to describe them. We’re facing a global pandemic, a national reckoning over racial inequity, and some of the strongest natural disasters in recorded history, all during an election year.

And through it all, we’re trying to do our jobs, sometimes while our kids log in to school across the kitchen table.

Nobody has the playbook for times like these. Now more than ever, we have to be forgiving when others are struggling. And it’s just as important to forgive yourself. If your organization offers an Employee Assistance Program or other access to mental health resources, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.

There’s no way of knowing how long the COVID-19 pandemic will continue. We’re in this for the long haul—and while working from home may weigh more heavily on you some days than others, there are ways to lighten the burden.

If you’re struggling to manage your marketing and communications load during these tough times, our whole team is here to help. Drop us a line at info@lipmanhearne.com to schedule a consultation. We’re here for you!