The current situation has caused fundamental changes in the ways we work. You’re likely working from home and navigating new terrain in terms of how to get work done, collaborate and perform in the face of plenty of new constraints.
You’re also likely to be exhausted, but you may not understand why. After all, you’re not enduring your commute and you’re “just” sitting at home on video-conference. You have access to snacks from your pantry anytime and you’re not rushing from meeting room to meeting room at your company or driving from customer site to customer site day-after-day. What gives?
It turns out, there’s actual logic behind your exhaustion. Here’s why you’re so drained, and perhaps more importantly, what you can do about it:
This isn’t your choice. One of the fundamental elements of good mental health is autonomy, self-expression and a sense of control. Many of us have been sent home and no longer have the choice to go to the office or work in our usual ways. This lack of choice can be frustrating and even disorienting.
The fix: Find ways to infuse choice into your day. As much as possible, set your meeting times and retain control over how projects roll out. Perhaps you can control the sequence of your tasks or the flow of your day. Even planning breaks can give you a sense of some control over how your time is managed.
You have to think about things that used to be automatic. Exhaustion can also occur because of points of friction in your day. When you were in the office, you were able to flow from one meeting room to the next and it was easy to scribble thoughts on a white board to keep the discussion moving forward.
The fix: Keep at it. As new ways of working become the typical, and as you learn new technologies, they will become more automatic and your brain will be able to put less effort into them.
You’re distracted. Children and spouses or partners can obviously be distracting, especially if you don’t have a dedicated place to work at home. But in addition, you may be distracted by the laundry you know needs to be done or even by the walk you wish you had time to take.
The fix: Make time for the distractions as part of your day. Plan to spend your lunch hour with your family or by getting a breath of fresh air.
You’re living a more intense life. One of the challenges of video conferencing in particular is its intensity. You’re looking at faces all day without being able to take visual breaks. Your eyes are focused on what is in close proximity, which is physically exhausting, but it can also be socially exhausting.
The fix: Avoid dwelling on yourself. Instead, focus on others, on the work and on the contributions, you’re making to your team. Also ensure you’re looking away frequently enough—and focusing on things in the distance (the view out the window or the artwork on your wall), rather than exclusively on what’s up close.
Working from home is tough—for many good reasons. But you can stay sane and effective by keeping as much control of your work as possible and maintaining your processes by learning new technologies. Keep perspective and give yourself permission to prioritize information flow.
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