If you’re feeling completely drained and exhausted by the end of the workday – you are not alone. The first few weeks to months of working from home were an extremely difficult adjustment for many of us – taking care of children, joining video meetings, at-home presentations, and the general housekeeping tasks we need to keep up with our families and jobs were all disrupted by this abrupt overnight change. Now, we are nearing almost half a year of remote work for many – and a little over a month into school. Your kids are likely feeling the fatigue of e-learning (and we’re certain you are too). It’s no surprise schools and businesses are pushing for returns to normalcy but this brings about new challenges and further the stress of uncertainty as this year goes on.
How can you relieve this exhaustion? We’ve talked to our team for their work from home tips and outlined the challenges many others, just like you, are experiencing and why this is happening.
Why am I so tired working from home?
At the beginning of the year our days were filled with phone calls and in-person meetings until overnight these were replaced with video calls through Zoom, Teams, Slack – you name it. Now, many are complaining about exhaustion at the end of their workday in what has been dubbed as “Zoom Fatigue.” A quick Google search pulls up thousands of results as this complaint has been on the rise and an increasing concern for the nation’s new stay-at-home workforce.
But what is causing this “Zoom Fatigue”?
Video calls demand a significant amount of focus from the participants throughout the duration of the meeting. Trying to comprehend others with poor audio quality, loud background noise, and interruptions from kids, pets, partners.. forces you to completely absorb yourself in the meeting and its information while trying to ignore these distractions. For a short period of time this is feasible, you’re sitting comfortably in loungewear on the couch and catch up in a quick 10-15 minute meeting – no problem. But that’s not the case. Most video meetings are still going through mutes and un-mutes, “can you hear me?”s and a variety of other hang-ups before you even get started. Now do this for 8 hours a day and it’s clear to see why we’re all so tired.
Lack of Social Cues:
Although you can see your coworkers in these video meetings it’s not even remotely similar to having in-person meetings and conversations. With nuanced glances, whispers and exchanges, reduced interruptions, and impromptu Q & As – video doesn’t capture these minute interactions. Not to mention, the prolonged amount of time you need to spend looking at your coworkers during these meetings as there is nowhere to avert your gaze – talk about uncomfortable. But if you do avert your eyes there’s the worry that you will be seen as not paying attention, distracted, or bored to others in the meeting, so you’re stuck in a cycle of prolonged eye contact. Then there are those obsessing over how they look and their appearance and not even listening to what is being said. At the end of they day, we are all human and need that in-person social connection to truly share our ideas, thoughts, and messages with engaging conversation, expression, and attention that videos just don’t capture.
How do we fix this?
While there aren’t any overnight fixes for WFH exhaustion we do have some tips that we hope will help you through this struggle.
As tempting as it is to answer emails, surf the web, or start your other projects – it’s important to focus on one thing at a time while working from home. There are already so many distractions just waiting for you to give in – kids playing (or screaming), dogs and cats waiting to be pet, or that ice cream tub in the freezer with your name on it – but by focusing on one task at a time it makes it easier to check it off your list and move on rather than feeling like you got nothing done by the end of the day except stress eating Ben and Jerrys.
Give your eyes a break:
When you feel your eyes start to wander around the room or out the window, let them take that short break as you listen to others speak. We understand your team may think you aren’t paying attention, but short aversions away from the screen will give your eyes comfort and a break for that moment, especially if you have a day filled with back-to-back meetings. Just don’t let them stare at the wall for 15 minutes… Imagine those that move around the room on phone calls or out the window during meetings, it’s a natural habit we all have and a break our body needs. So when you need it, don’t feel bad for taking the short moment to recharge – you might find your team is feeling the same way.
Switch to phone calls or emails when you can:
At the beginning of WFH some teams moved all meetings directly to video. But not every meeting needs to be a video conference. When you can, set up a quick phone call or email to give your team a break from long-winded video calls in favor of clearer audio quality and the chance to recharge and refocus.
Get some fresh air and take breaks:
One of the benefits of working from home is the convenience to go outside for a minute of fresh air. Take a moment between meetings or over lunch to get away from the blue-screen light you’ve been staring at for hours and enjoy a walk outside or lunch on the patio. We’ve found this helps refresh our minds and gives us the boost we need to get through the rest of the day – even when we really didn’t feel like getting up from the couch.
You may not have the luxury of an extra room for a home office or a quiet space away from your family. But we do recommend trying to find some space in your home where you can set up your own workstation or lap desk. It’s easier to work when you have a space associated with it and easier to relax when your couch or kitchen table aren’t associated with working. If you don’t have a separate space, some good quality headphones to block out noise may help you hold your focus away from the room’s distractions.
Have a routine and get ready for the day:
As comfortable as it is to spend the day in your pajamas – it’s best to get yourself into somewhat of a normal workday routine. Wake up before your start time, brew your favorite coffee, take a shower (please), change your clothes and prepare for your day with hopefully a few moments of silence.
There isn’t an overnight solution for WFH exhaustion or the looming feeling you have to be online and active 8+ hours a day – but we do hope these explanations and tips help you find a few new ways to ease this transition and make it through the year we’d all like to forget.