Burnout due to working from home

02. December 2021

Here we go again: The fourth Corona wave sends countless employees into the home working once more. Most have already gained home working experience through the pandemic and have noticed: Home working does not mean less stress, but often more! The risk of burnout due to working from home is high, because the work life changes a lot by moving to home working. This article shows which difficulties the home working can bring with it on a psychological level and how you can protect yourself from burnout due to home working

Danger of burnout due to home working

On the one hand, retreating to the home working is a privilege: in the home working, employees are much better protected from the Corona virus, as they save on commuting and reduce contacts. Thus, the home working has established itself as an important component in the fight against the pandemic. On the other hand, working from home has drastically changed working life. There are positive changes, such as more time, more flexibility or better digitalization, but also negative changes, such as permanent availability, lack of agreements or overtime, which promote burnout.

Home working can disrupt routines

It turns out that work and leisure time merge strongly in the home working. When working at home, it is not uncommon to leave the laptop on after work and check one or two e-mails. In addition, many employees when working from home find it more difficult to coordinate work and break times. There are no colleagues and no cafeteria times to guide them, forcing them to take breaks. As a result, home office workers are more likely to exceed their limits and burnout can develop.

Lack of spatial separation of work and free time

The home office turns the home from a place of relaxation into a place of work. There may not even be a separate study. Work then takes place in places that are actually intended for family life or relaxation, namely the kitchen, living room and bedroom. This makes it increasingly difficult to separate work from leisure and to switch off. The stress level rises and so does the risk of burnout due to home working.

Home working makes communication with colleagues more difficult

The physical separation eliminates informal communication channels in companies: no more small talk in the hallway, no more joint coffee breaks, no more conversations between literally “door to door.” The forwarding of information can thus be massively disrupted, which can trigger stress. Appreciation and praise are also less likely to reach the other person via digital channels. In addition to too much work, some employees in the home office feel unseen and unsupported, and dissatisfaction with the job situation increases. Motivating experiences of success are lost and the fun of the job is gradually lost.

Home working exacerbates loneliness

For most people, work is not only a means of earning a living, but also a place of social interaction. In the home office, this is made more difficult, and many contacts outside of work also fall away due to the Corona pandemic. The resulting loneliness can have dramatic consequences: The stress that arises at work is no longer relieved by activities with other people. Many employees withdraw, neglect hobbies and, after a while, devote themselves exclusively to their work, which keeps the vicious circle of overwork going.

Signs of burnout due to home working

What does burnout manifest itself with? Burnout is a work-related stress reaction that can manifest itself in many different ways. Some burnout sufferers feel listless and lack energy, so that they can hardly sit down to work. Others, on the other hand, seem rushed and are only concerned with work in their heads. They rush into one task after the next and do not allow themselves any breaks. After some time, the psyche can no longer cope with this constant strain. Burnout is often accompanied by a loss of all joy, even in activities that used to be fun. In addition, psychosomatic complaints often appear, such as back pain or headaches, sleep disorders or gastrointestinal complaints.

What helps against burnout from home working?

To ensure that working in a home office does not lead to burnout, employees as well as employers can observe a few points

  • Create and protect routines: It’s helpful to keep core work and break times as usual, even when working from home. It’s best to put breaks firmly on the calendar and not schedule them here.
  • Separate work and free time: Here, on the one hand, spatial separation is advantageous. For example, it is better not to use the bedroom for work, so that it can remain a space for rest and relaxation. In addition, it can help to get ready every morning and put on work clothes. Then changing into comfortable clothes at the end of the day feels even better!
  • Schedule digital coffee breaks with colleagues: To give room for small talk and other conversations, it’s possible to meet with colleagues for digital breaks where work content is explicitly not discussed.
  • Fresh air and good working conditions: A short walk during the lunch break clears the head. In addition, the desk should be well equipped and all the technology needed for comfortable working should be available.
  • Limit accessibility: It should become a matter of course that employees are not available around the clock. At some point, the space to relax and switch off must be given, or burnout is imminent.
  • Employers ensure good communication: On the employer side, it is important to maintain communication between employees and between employees and management, and to explicitly encourage employees to take the breaks they need.

If employees notice that burnout is threatening or has already occurred, it is advisable to seek professional support. There is a way out of the burnout spiral – the Limes Schlosskliniken are happy to provide support here!

References

Burisch, M. (2014). The burnout syndrome. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg

Lohmann-Haislah, A. (2012). Stress report Germany 2012: psychological demands, resources and well-being. Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Senger, K. (2018). Burnout 2.0. PiD-Psychotherapie im Dialog, 19(03), 13-14

Wittchen, H.-U. & Hoyer, J. (2006). Clinical psychology & psychotherapy. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer.

Categories: Burnout Long-Covid

Friederike Reuver
Autor:in Friederike Reuver
"Die LIMES Schlosskliniken haben sich auf die Behandlung von psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen spezialisiert. Mit Hilfe des Blogs möchten wir als Klinikgruppe die verschiedenen psychischen Erkrankungen näher beleuchten und verschiedene Therapien sowie aktuelle Themen vorstellen."

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