Burnout can be caused by stress and overwork - so how can ambitious people avoid it while working toward their goals? Remote work may be the answer.
Burnout is a phenomenon that is becoming progressively common worldwide, so it’s important to be able to identify the initial symptoms of this struggle and implement a solution before it escalates.
Burnout is a physical and mental issue in which a person can break down because of stress and overwork. Though there are common factors between many different cases of burnout, this feeling can exhibit itself in disparate forms depending on an individual’s personality and habits. In some people it manifests as a state of mind, while in others it can become an intensely painful physical plight and in others still it can result in depression.
If you’ve ever fallen victim to this problem, you know how damaging and life-altering (not in a good way) it can be. The havoc it wreaks on your body, mind and spirit can even become debilitating, and limit your ability to not only get your work done, but to live a happy, fulfilled life.
The extra hours of work that you’ve never felt were a big deal could actually be contributing to your chance of experiencing burnout. Those nights burning the midnight oil, only to wake up at the crack of dawn the next day are starting to wear on your body, your mind and your soul.
Burnout can be sneaky. It may be disguised as passion, that incredible feeling of excitement and purpose that keeps you working toward a goal. However, if you don’t allow yourself to take a break once in a while, that passion may lose steam and burnout may set in.
You might feel exhausted, unreasonably angry, or completely apathetic toward anything that you used to enjoy. Burnout is a very real thing and, for the first time, you think that you might be experiencing it.
Everyone experiences burnout differently, but you can spot some clear signs of the issue if you take the time to truly listen to what you’re telling yourself internally. Your thoughts have a greater effect on the rest of your well being than you may realize, so turn to them first when you are investigating whether or not you are on the brink of burnout.
Here’s what you might be thinking if you’re beginning to feel the beginnings of burnout:
I’ve been working at the same job for many years. Every day is the same. From the moment I wake up, to the train I take on my commute, to the greetings that I exchange when I enter the office, to the work I do when I get there.. My daily tasks are predictable and I haven’t felt challenged by my work in years. My workload is large enough that I always seem to be the last person in the office. I don’t have a problem meeting goals and expectations, but I’m losing the motivation to continue going beyond the bare minimum.
After work, I head home because I’m too tired to meet up with my coworkers or friends for a social activity. It just doesn’t feel worth it now that I’ve cemented my relationships with them over the years. It’s okay if I miss out once in awhile (okay, most of the time). Once I’m home, I follow my typical schedule: make dinner, watch Netflix, head to bed. Then, I get up the next day and do it all again.
If you related to any part of this scenario, you may be feeling some of the burnout blues.
It’s important to recognize how your professional life is impacting your personal one and your overall health. Ignoring this inner dialogue and letting those feelings of discontent bottle up isn’t a solution.
Your body will find other ways to get you to listen. When left to its own devices, burnout can sometimes escalate to a point where your body will begin to sound a physical alarm, urging you to pay attention and understand that you are pushing yourself beyond your limits.
Extreme symptoms of burnout can include:
Unsurprisingly, each of these distressing symptoms will actually prevent you from doing your work well, which will result in even more burnout. Isn’t science fun?
There are many thoughts on this topic but they all tend to come down to the following solutions: eating right, exercising more often, and taking a break. Simply put, most people think that the key to keeping burnout at bay is a healthy, active, low-stress lifestyle. We’re not going to argue with that, but we’d like to offer another option.
What if you could prevent yourself from feeling the effects of burnout in the first place? What if you had the ability to decide where and when you work and for how long? What if you had control over your every day schedule so you could live your life in a way that is most productive and personally gratifying?
Companies who are not only looking to hire the best people around the world and retain them are starting to implement remote work policies to give their employees a better work-life balance and to keep them engaged in their work. In some organization, remote opportunities are even given as perks or rewards to employees who are excelling in their roles. An underrated side effect of remote work both for employees and employers is a significant reduction in the likelihood of burnout. Here’s why:
Another major perk of working remotely is taking control over your day-to-day. Because remote employees are not beholden to as strict a schedule as they would be in a traditional office, they can make their days work for them, instead of the other way around. For example, instead of being pulled into impromptu meetings because they’re conveniently located a few doors down , remote employees can schedule important appointments in free blocks and use the rest of their time to focus on deep work that requires their full attention. While this creates a subtle form of structure around their work, it also allows a remote employee to decide what they’re going to work on and when, morphing their workdays from disjointed hours spent checking items off of a tedious to-do list to fluid work time spent on priority projects. When you get to choose the way that your day unfolds, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable and make sure that your health and wellbeing is a priority.
A different aspect of this flexibility actually relates to a remote employee’s personal life. While working remotely does alleviate the burnout that an employee would feel from his or her conventional position, it also prevents them from pursuing the things that matter to them because they’re burnt out. Instead of heading home immediately after work to spend a few hours doing mind-numbing activities to relax after a hectic day, remote employees can use their time more meaningfully. If an employee has a family, they can eliminate the guilt that they feel when they miss important moments because they were committed to a 9-5 work schedule. While working remotely, they can decide to work earlier in the morning so that they can be available to their children when they return from school and vice versa. It also lets them be home with their children if they’re not feeling well, and staying productive instead of taking an entire day off of work.
Not only can they choose where they work, but they can often choose when they work as well. If they can determine when they are most productive, and do focused, consistent work during that time period, they can cut down on the overall number of hours that they work and set aside time and energy to pursue their personal passions. Their organization gets better results and the employee feels more purposeful. It’s a win-win!
When employees are given the freedom to take their work outside of the office, they see things in a new light. Let’s face it, traditional office environments are not always the most inspiring, or motivating, places to be. Employees who have the freedom to decide where they want to work everyday take back the power to determine their own productivity. Whether they’re energized at the coffeeshop down the street, content in their home office, or invigorated by the promise of breaking out of a routine and discovering a new workspace everyday, it’s true that the ability to move into new and interesting surroundings makes employees less likely to feel the effects of burnout.
As mentioned above, remote employees aren’t necessarily required to work a strict set of hours. They’ve broken out of the 9-5 shackles and live in a world where the lines between personal and professional are a bit blurred. They are no longer counting down the minutes in their cubicle, wasting time until it’s considered acceptable to leave the office, or staying late into the evening to make a good impression on their boss.
Typically, remote employees are more project-focused, rather than time-focused. Because they aren’t expected to work in a designated area for a set amount of time, they can turn their attention to the things that need to get done in a day instead of the number of hours they have to work in a day. This shift in interest from “hours spent” to “tasks accomplished” leaves employees feeling fulfilled instead of burnt out from what feels like an endless amount of time spent worrying over the same details day after day.
If a remote employee has the option to travel, they have an even greater ability to bypass burnout on the way to success. Traveling and experiencing new countries and cultures adds novelty and newness to what would otherwise be an average day. Joining a work and travel program not only allows remote employees to enjoy an interesting, flexible lifestyle, but also makes them a part of a community of self-starters, quick-thinkers and emotional bolsters.
Work and travel program participants are surrounded by a group of people that is equally as committed to their work and determined to not only meet their goals, but surpass them. Motivation is contagious, and remote workers who join work and travel programs will feel the effects of a supportive environment overtake any sense of burnout before it can grow roots.
Remote work has many benefits, yet none are more underrated than its capacity to prevent and alleviate burnout. As companies continue to innovate and search for ways to bring in the best talent and retain them as long term employees, they must lean on remote work to be their ally. When considering the happiness, wellness and potential tenure of their workers, it is in a company’s best interest to implement a remote work policy in order to nip burnout in the bud and encourage work-life balance across the organization.
Let’s set aside our fears of the unknown and hold tight to the idea that there’s more to life than a 9-5. Now’s the perfect time to make burnout a thing of the past.