Last updated on October 5th, 2023 at 08:52 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new era of remote work, but not everyone is adjusting well.

Businessman working concentrated

While the ability to telework is an advantage, for employees who never had to do it before and now find themselves thrust into a new set of workflows, adjusting has proven difficult.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many people into their home offices, if they even had one, to continue working while social distancing. For a large portion of these individuals, teleworking is a brand new experience and they’ve never had time to develop their own boundaries between work & home.

This is a problem.

Our brains and mental health rely on having healthy down time, family time, & time to do the things we enjoy, outside of our daily career commitments.

A Recipe for Burnout

When the workplace is just steps away from the bedroom (or maybe even in the bedroom) and VPN connections are always on, many workers may have trouble disconnecting. It’s simply too easy to log on late at night and catch up on emails and other tasks.

Woman teleworking from her bedroom late at night.
Easy access to the workspace means many employees may work after hours, frequently interrupting their private lives.

This ease of availability to work frequently leads to an always-working mentality and can be taken advantage of by companies who know someone can easily jump on after hours just to ‘take care of something real quick’.

This is only sustainable for so long.

Eventually, long-term telework employees may get burned out and productivity will drop. So how do you fix it? Let’s talk about a few things you can do.

Set a Physical Boundary

This is really what happens naturally if you commute to work every day. The break in mindset between your physical work location and home helps you disconnect. When you’re remote working, this physical break is gone. So you can try to replace it.

Consider performing your remote work in a designated area of the house. A spare room, den, or basement can make a great place. Preferably choose an area that you normally spend little time in.

Set a Time Boundary

The next thing you can do is work a regular set of hours, and avoid working outside these normal hours. This can be challenging, especially if you have a demanding boss who knows you’re home, but it’s important to try to stick to this.

Keeping set hours will help stop work from bleeding into every area of your life. Freelancers and business owners may have been doing this for years, but employees aren’t used to it at all.

If your boss or clients are demanding you to be available at all hours, you can curb this by ensuring they get great response times from you during your set hours while giving priority to non-work activities outside these hours.

Set Personal Boundaries

If you have kids, or a spouse who is also working from home, it’s important to talk with them about your ‘at work’ time. Having kids or a spouse that continuously interrupts your work will not only affect your productivity, but an intrusion during a conference call or video chat can lead to embarrassing situations.

This is especially important for people who have jobs that require them to focus for long periods of time or problem-solve. This type of work doesn’t lend itself well to constant interruption and productivity can suffer as a result.

Suppress Notifications on Your Smartphone

While it seems obvious, it’s crazy how many remote workers allow their phone to continuously ding them with new emails at all hours of the day. Not only is this highly disruptive during work hours, but after work hours it’s downright intrusive.

Even if you aren’t responding to the notifications, the constant dinging and buzzing is enough to keep your mind from fully disconnecting from work mode.

By silencing your notifications, especially work ones, during your off-hours, you’ll give your brain much needed recharge time to relax and think about other things.

Telework: Final Thoughts

The ability to work from home is both a blessing and curse. While the occasional work from home day can be a desired perk, many folks simply aren’t prepared for the consistent monotony that comes with working from home all the time. But if you’re in a position where remote work is required, keeping track of the above key items will help retain your productivity and sanity.

Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.

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