Working from home seems pretty great— you can put in a load of laundry in between tasks, or while on a call, make your favorite cup of coffee, and even wear joggers! However, as nice as it might seem, the long-term effects of working in a digital world can take a mental toll.
Do you dread having to put on a “happy face” for yet another zoom meeting or virtual happy hour? Do you get to the end of the workday and feel like you didn’t actually get anything done? Does there seem to be an expectation to work or respond after hours or on the weekend?
If you said yes to any of those questions, you are probably experiencing mental fatigue and the signs of burnout. You are not alone in this and we have four ways to prevent and combat mental fatigue.
1) Log Off
I know it seems counterintuitive, especially now that the main way of socializing and working is all online, but you have to log off.
Your focus is constantly being pulled in 100 directions if you don’t log out of your email, Slack, and/or social media. Although the little ping of a notification may take only a minute to respond to, you still have the mental hit of your focus being redirected back to work issues and away from resting and disconnecting.
A lot of people justify being online 24/7 because it is part of the job. Having a job in social media or digital work can feel like we need to be online all the time to do our work, when in reality we are just scrolling endlessly. Unplugging gives your brain a chance to rest, be more creative, and productive.
Sorry was I on mute? Let me say it a little louder for the people in the back — BOUNDARIES! Remote work has obliterated any normal separation of work and home. We now take video calls from our living rooms, bedrooms, or work side by side with our spouse. Some have to watch their children and make sure the dog doesn’t eat out of the trashcan, all while trying to get their own work done.
Boundaries are a way of protecting yourself and giving others the chance to respect what you need. If you do not communicate your boundaries, people may not know they are causing you undue stress and burden. Be honest and inform people what you can and cannot do.
Use out of office replies when you need to let people know when you are not immediately available. Tell your team what your workday hours are and don’t feel obligated to work past or on the weekend, even if others are working non-standard hours. Set boundaries with your audience as well — have an automatic response set on your social media that says they will receive a response during workday hours.
Setting boundaries allows you to work better, not necessarily “less.”
3) Take a Break
Don’t fall into the trap that because your work and home life are blended that you are obligated to work nonstop. Endless work does not necessarily mean good or effective work.
Reframe how you view rest: I shouldn’t work to rest; I rest so that I can work. Your car can’t run on an empty tank and neither can you. This means stepping away, taking a walk, working out, reading a book, calling a friend, doing something that brings you joy. If you work a computer-based job like me, simply stretching or getting my body moving makes me feel 1000 times better.
Schedule breaks into your day. A lot of people swear by the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work without any distractions on one task — no social media, bouncing tasks, just focus. At the end of 25 minutes, you take a 5-minute break. It can be whatever you like: get up and walk around, check your phone, get a cup of tea. Repeat this four times and then take a longer break, 15–30 minutes.
I know what you are thinking…how can I take that many breaks in a day? But notice how much time is wasted in task switching and checking on every notification. Using a technique that keeps you in a state of deep work will actually produce better and more focused work. Find a method that works for you and stick to it!
4) It is OK to Not be OK
We are all going through a lot this year. It is perfectly normal to not feel 100% every day. Acknowledge that your feelings are valid. You don’t have to fake positivity. Do what you need to take care of yourself and find what kind of self-care works for you. Take a mental health hour, day, or weekend when needed. Talk to people about what you are going through and keep your network and loved ones around you.
Forgive yourself for the things you can’t do at the end of the day. Allow yourself to prioritize what really matters and don’t suffer in silence. If therapy could be beneficial, seek out a therapist you can trust.
We are in this together. Please let us know if any of these strategies help you navigate digital work and share any of the strategies you love to use on a daily basis. As always you can connect with us @coeuscg on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!