Find out what work-from-home fatigue is, what the signs that you might be experiencing it are and how to combat it in our latest article. Plus - we've rounded up 5 extra tips for you to make sure you're looking after your health and wellbeing whilst working from home.
What is working from home fatigue?
Working from home fatigue is a feeling of demotivation or burn out caused by working from home for prolonged periods of time. For some of us, working from home was the norm before COVID-19. For others of us, we were forced to adapt quickly, turning our living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms into home offices overnight.
However, whether you’ve been working from home for months or years, fatigue is normal.
Polly Kay, a Senior Marketing Manager, says that fatigue happens regardless of whether you’re working from home or in an office environment. “This type of fatigue is less dependent on the specific environment you’re in but more the natural peaks and lulls in energy that people gradually undergo over time.
This could be due to a number of factors, such as following a set routine long term, too much repetition in terms of tasks, and a lack of external factors to motivate and maintain energy and enthusiasm.”
80% of workers say they feel close to burnout due to being overworked*
- Study by Asana
Why it’s important to recognise when you’re experiencing fatigue
Recognising the signs of work-from-home fatigue can be a challenge, because while we all have odd days when it can be hard to get going with things or we struggle with our attention spans, a more broad and general fatigue tends to creep up cumulatively.
Taking longer to undertake familiar tasks, finding that at the end of each work day less has gotten done, finding yourself increasingly easy to distract, and spending more and more time taking short mental breaks are all indicators, but they can also be hard to spot unless you’re proactive about remaining alert to them.
In order to try to combat the problem itself, first and foremost you have to recognise that the issue is there in the first instance; and keeping an eye on your work output, propensity to make errors, and how you feel your attention to detail and general mood and outlook are can all help.
8 signs you’re experiencing work-from-home fatigue
1. You're finding it hard to focus
“For me, I feel like the fatigue set in around the beginning of May. Working from home stopped being novel and started to instead become routine, and with that mental shift I noticed it was harder to focus on my work and stay productive during my work time.
This seemed most pronounced during video conferences and meetings. I had to force myself to pay attention while others were talking and found myself becoming annoyed and impatient more quickly when someone was having technical difficulties.” - Jon Hill, CEO at The Energists
How to combat this: 5 tips for helping you stay focussed
2. You've noticed your sleep is poorer
Perhaps you're not waking up as early as you used to, or perhaps you're struggling to fall asleep.
If you're noticing that your sleep pattern has been distrurbed this could be a sign that you’re experiencing a burnout.
With a lack of clearly defined boundaries around work and non-work, our bodies and minds can't relax enough for us to get restful sleep.
How to combat this:
Liana Pavane, Digital Wellness Coach & Founder of TTYL says: "Technology impacts sleep quality in many ways and can keep your brain alert—preventing you from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Eliminate blue light (aka screens) at least an hour before bedtime, keep your phone and computer out of the bedroom as a best practice, and prioritize your sleep routine. You'll look fresh and be more rested for the next day's Zoom meeting. "
3. Your motivation has lessened
If you feel as though you are having to bully yourself into your chair come Monday morning, chances are your motivation levels have taken a hit.
Dmytro Okunyev, Founder at Chanty, says: "The biggest sign that work from home fatigue is kicking in is when you don’t have the energy or drive to do those tasks which you usually excel at - tasks that you would ace if you were in the office.
When you lose the motivation and willpower to do even those tasks that you enjoy and do better than anyone else in the workplace, it really is time to reconsider the way you structured remote work for yourself."
Losing our motivation can also have a knock-on effect on our work, causing us even more stress. If you find yourself leaving things to the last minute then you run the risk of working longer than you should, or you'll find that...
How to combat this:
Jeremy Harrison, Founder of Hustle Life says: "To counter lapses in motivation, you need to pace yourself. Don't second guess yourself by always redoing your reports. Once or twice is more than enough. Be confident and don't go over it a third time. Set a time for you to start and stop work. Stick to it by turning off your laptop and avoid those one last look. Lastly, when you have set a routine, things will go back to normal, and motivation will be natural.
One thing to remember is that burnout comes and goes. So better watch out for the signs and start your counter-measures once you feel it coming."
4. Your productivity is dropping
At the beginning of the lockdown, you were thrilled to work from home and even marvelled at your increased productivity as there were fewer distractions, you were more well-rested amongst other factors. Now, you're struggling to get through an hour before you need another coffee break and your workday is dragging out past 5 as you don't get the work done.
You can tell you're getting burnt out on remote work when you take a lot longer to do quick, easy tasks. Every time you try to be productive, it feels like you're moving through molasses.
How to combat this:
"To help with morning fatigue, I suggest that you create morning tasks with deadlines to get into dynamic mode almost immediately. Make it a hard start even if you don’t have to - it will set the mood for the rest of your day.
I frequently use the Pomodoro technique for my mornings at the home office, creating artificial pressure to get done with tasks within 25 minutes instead of dragging slowly through the morning." - Marina
5. You're making more mistakes than usual
Are you making mistakes on the tasks assigned to you? Do you find you’re missing deadlines? Perhaps sometimes you’re absent-minded in video conferences or you feel aloof and don’t really participate in the meetings?
All of these are signs that you could be experiencing work-from-home fatigue.
How to combat this: Taking short breaks in your work day can help you keep your mind on the task in front of you and help prevent your focus from slipping. Check out more tips on our dedicated article: 5 Tips to Combat Work from Home Fatigue.
6. You're struggling to make decisions
Even the simple decisions of what to eat for dinner becomes an insurmountable task, when we are fatigued or burned out. Whilst there may be a number of reasons behind why you are struggling to make decisions, if you've noticed that your normally speedy and snappy decision making has been replaced with sluggishness or an unwillingness to respond, it could be due to fatigue or burn out.
In a business or work setting, decisions usually require us to have the right information in order to choose between options. They also require us to have the mental capacity to weigh these options and decide on the best course of action. If you're finding that you're lacking in one or both of these areas, there are ways to combat this.
How to combat this: Start your day by making a list of what you need to decide on. Some of these might be simple, "agree the agenda for tomorrow's meeting with David" for example. Some of these might be more complicated. Put the complicated ones at the top of your list, and tackle these first to get them out of the way. You may go back to ask for more information, or you may go back and ask for more time if you are feeling rushed. For more help on how to make better decisions, there is a great article here.
7. You feel irritable
Usually the life of the party at work? Missing the Friday night drinks? That's ok, but are you taking it out on your family or even the very coworkers that you once had a great time with? You may be exhausted of the monotony of working from home and itching to get back to normality.
If you find yourself being uncharacteristically short tempered with your loved ones and co-workers it may be a sign that you need a break.
“I began to feel the signs of fatigue when I started to feel tired in the morning even when I haven't done anything yet. It was coupled with constant headache and irritability.
It was honestly one of the most frustrating moments since I started working from home. I felt like I was stuck in a pattern and I knew I needed to break through or I would burn out.” - Tom De Spiegelaere
How to combat this: If you're feeling irritable, then chances are you need to switch up your routine. We've written a whole paragraph to help you do this here!
8. You feel isolated or house-bound
If you feel like you've got no one to turn to when things start to hit the fan, then fatigue might be getting the better of you. Or perhaps you find yourself not looking forward to being at home again come Monday morning?
"Even if you make frequent trips out, if you're starting to hate the look of your home or avoid getting back there and you work from home on top, it's a sign you've had enough." - Andrew Taylor
How to combat this:
Whilst fatigue can leave you burdened with a feeling of abandonment, remember: your team is there for you and will be able to help you. All you need to do is ask.
If you're feeling house-bound, then check out our next article: 5 ways to beat work-from-home fatigue, which goes over how to add variants to your daily routine and ensure you take enough time for yourself outside the house, as well as inside.
And a huge thank you to our Contributers:
Andrew Taylor - Director of Netman Law
Tom De Spiegelaere - Founder of Tom Spicky
Jeremy Harrison - Founder of Hustle Life
Dmytro Okunyev, Founder at Chanty
Jon Hill - Chairman & CEO at The Energists
Liana Pavane, Digital Wellness Coach & Founder of TTYL
Polly Kay, Senior Marketing Manager at English Blinds