Working from home can be especially exhausting–for good reasons–here’s how to reinvigorate. The coronavirus and COVID-19 have 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 videoconference. 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. Now, these activities require more conscious thought. Getting connected via technology is rarely seamless and you may have to learn new sharing software to co-create with your team from a distance. 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 miss people. One of the great things about work is the regular connections we get to make with those who aren’t necessarily part of our immediate circle. The coffee bar at the office provides the opportunity to run into co-workers, stay connected and maintain relationships with people we don’t necessarily see in our day-to-day tasks. Your network has likely been reduced and you may be missing your friends and experiencing some grief. Work is fundamentally social and even for those who are more introverted, human connection is an important part of the work experience. You’re exhausted because you’re not energized by these regular connections and because maintaining those connections requires more conscious effort. The fix: Reach out and connect in new ways using IM, Slack, texts or the like. This may seem unusual at first but remember others are likely feeling the same angst as you are. It will get easier and you’ll establish new norms to keep you connected.