Freelancers’ guide to preventing remote work burnout
Have you ever been too overwhelmed to even think about any of your responsibilities? Had a lot of self-doubt about your abilities as a freelancer recently? Or been so mentally exhausted that you experience physical tiredness as well?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you might be experiencing signs of remote work burnout.
There is no denying that taking care of your mental health as a freelance worker can feel pretty difficult. And remote work burnout is one of the top offenders of this problem: Ever since work-from-home business models and home offices have entered the norm, freelance workers and independent professionals have been reporting more and more of this issue.
But what exactly is remote work burnout, and how can you prevent it? Keep reading to see our definition and top 5 tips on how to prevent remote work burnout.
What is burnout? Why does it happen?
Before we move on to explain how to prevent remote work burnout, let’s clearly define what ‘burnout’ actually is:
According to an official definition made by WHO (World Health Organization), burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” caused by work-related stress. What separates it from anxiety is its sole connection to issues around work and productivity.
Burnout has been recognized as an actual syndrome in 2019, and reports of burnout have been rising in remote work significantly ever since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though it’s easy to confuse with general anxiety, burnout can quickly worsen if not addressed. It’s important to recognize its symptoms and know how to take better care of yourself as a solo talent.
What are the symptoms of burnout?
Recognizing the symptoms is a key part of knowing how to prevent remote work burnout. To help you do that, here are some of the most common burnout symptoms that you could be experiencing in remote solo work:
- General loss of motivation
- Feeling unable to accomplish, produce, or create anything
- Significant increase in self-doubt and feelings of negativity
- Significant decrease in your sense of personal accomplishment and self-confidence
- Feeling alone and/or detached from everyone around you
- Physical exhaustion
- More frequent headaches and/or muscle pain
- Procrastination, wanting to withdraw from and/or quit certain tasks
- Worsened appetite and/or sleep schedule
- Feeling largely overwhelmed by your responsibilities to the point of feeling anxious
If you relate to some or most of the items on this list, you might be showing signs of burnout as well.
5 ways to prevent burnout while working remotely
Dealing with burnout can be a real challenge, especially if you don’t know how or where to start. Take a look at our 5 suggestions that can help minimize your remote work burnout, or even prevent it altogether:
Create clear boundaries between work and home
One of the top burnout prevention strategies is to create a separate workspace in your home. Just because you work where you live doesn’t necessarily mean that you should fully combine those two worlds. In fact, what you should do is the exact opposite. To prevent remote work burnout as much as possible, it’s best if you have a dedicated workspace or office where you’ll fully be focusing on your remote work.
If you’re unable to physically separate your work and home environments (such as, if you live in a studio apartment with insufficient space), there are other ways to create this boundary. For example, you can try designating separate times for your work-related and home-related tasks. This mental distinction can help get you into ‘work mode’ much more efficiently.
Though freelancing is called a “solo business”, most of you probably don’t live “solo”. In this case, especially in the case that you have children, it might be even more difficult to create such boundaries. Try to communicate your needs clearly to your housemates and/or partner, so that they know when you’ll be working and leave you to yourself.
Make time to take time off
Even though it’s important to separate your work and home lives, it’s equally important to recognize when you need to take a break.
The importance of taking regular breaks is undeniable: It’ll help you focus easier, be more productive, and become less stressed over time. You can incorporate a set timing schedule (a well-known example is Pomodoro), or figure out what works best for your remote work style.
You might be conditioned to focus on efficiency when managing and tracking your time, but this can quickly turn unhealthy. It’s best to be realistic when you’re determining how long a project will take. Make sure to include enough break and rest times within your schedule so that you can prevent remote work burnout much easier.
Reach out to fellow colleagues and coworkers
Feeling alone can definitely trigger burnout. But chances are, you’re not the only one in your immediate circle that’s dealing with burnout.
Try reaching out to coworkers and other fellow freelancers about your issues. Check in with how they’re feeling, and offer your support. Sharing your common experiences can create a tight community of advice and encouragement–it can even help strengthen your work relationships.
Along with your colleagues, reaching out to other loved ones is another important step. Isolation can be one of the top enhancers of burnout symptoms. They’ll be happy to listen to your issues and support you no matter what.
Make sure to get enough sleep
It has been proven that adults need at least 7 hours of sleep or more in order to function properly. Sleeping less than this recommended amount can cause high amounts of mental exhaustion.
This is why an important step in preventing remote work burnout is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. It can be tempting to stay up later than normal when you’re in the comfort of your home. But, as a solo worker, not having a solid sleep schedule can harm your mental health along with your productivity.
To be able to sleep at a reasonable hour, structure your day in a set timetable, and try going to bed at the same time every day. This will help condition your brain into feeling sleepy around the same time at night.
Regular exercise can also be another helping factor, since staying physically active can help regulate your body’s tiredness levels.
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help
No matter which prevention strategy you go with, sometimes, it’s best to accept that these measures can only help you so far. If you feel like they have been insufficient in helping you, try to seek out professional help to navigate remote work burnout. This can both improve your mental and physical health, and help set you on a better path.
Freelancing comes with unique challenges, and remote work burnout is one potential instance. Whether you are just starting out or looking to grow your solo business, Ruul is here to support you along the way. Keep an eye on our blog for more resources and tools to help set you up for success.
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