WFH Burnout

WFH Burnout: It’s Real. Let’s Talk About It.

Jul 14, 2020

Y’all just thought you wanted to stay in your pajamas all day.  This WFH burnout thing, though, it’s real, it’s here, and it’s hard to overcome.

WFH Burnout symptoms are random yet ugly.

They might include staring angrily at a pile of laundry sitting in the corner, minding its own business.  Or it could be a persistent refusal to bathe, coupled with a growing feeling that randomly perusing Amazon for wigs that might cover up your feeble attempt at starting dreadlocks.  And let’s not forget the ever growing list of shows that you’ve binge watched your way through, like Harlots or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the original version of 90210…

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Working from home is not as easy or as simple as it appears when you are outside the bubble looking in; if you think that it means you get to eat lunch when, where, and with whomever you want (ok, in normal times, not so much lately), well, that’s only partly right at best.  Some days are your own, depending on what type of work you do and who supervises that work; other days you are sitting under the microscope from hell.

If you think it means sitting around on a Saturday when you’d much rather be off sailing in San Pedro, or hiking in Show Low, well you got that right.  And do you know why it means that?  Because I don’t have a boss, I skipped writing my blog update two weeks ago because I was busy and this is more of a ‘leisure time’ activity when I have projects that I need to finish, and it’s the only time I have to get it done.  Lucky for me, I suppose, it’s going to be a blistering 117 degrees outside today, so I don’t really have any desire to be outside, even floating around in the pool.

Making work just to make work is a big cause of WFH Burnout.

If you’re one of those people who has been sent home to work when you normally work in an office or other space with a group of people, it’s entirely possible that your direct supervisor (and his or her direct supervisor) don’t really have any idea how to supervise the department when you’re all spread out and no one can pop in to check up on you and see that you’re sitting at your desk working and not standing in front of the freezer with an open tub of ice cream and a spoon.  (Please, don’t do that.)

[READ: Creative prompts can help break your mental blocks – ARTICLE]

This tends to lead to innumerable – and interminable – Zoom meetings, conference calls, and feeble attempts to surreptitiously monitor your time spent on work versus your time spent folding laundry, for instance.  And that brings us to the crux of the WFH Burnout problem.  If you aren’t used to staying home, don’t have the tools or the wherewithal to organize your time and maintain the discipline it takes to meet the deadlines and produce the work, then this is hard.  It’s been hard for weeks or months now, and it’s not getting easier, it’s only getting worse.

I totally get it.  I still have days or weeks where I simply cannot get moving on what needs to happen; whether its a lack of motivation, a feeling of being overwhelmed, or the simple desire to just have a few minutes of my own time (never mind that my procrastinating habits are what eats up my time, even if that means that the undersides of my drawers are all so clean you could eat off them) to do ‘something’ – you know, that vague something or other that isn’t what I’m doing right now.  Even if what I am doing is what I have planned to do in this moment for days or even weeks.

I’ve been working from home for more than twenty years and I’m still burned out this time.

It’s not so much that I have been all that productive.  We’re launching a new podcast series, and we are producing it in seasons instead of an always on style.  Our mobile marketing podcast is on hiatus at the moment so that we can produce the new series.  We’ve done some interviews with some FABULOUS guests, but we are nowhere near ready to launch this thing next week and probably not the week after that.

[TALK TO ME: Do you have a new project?  Is it interesting?  LET’S CHAT

I also know that there are plenty of people who have it worse than I do.  At least my son is grown and lives a few hundred miles away and is gainfully employed right now.  Poor Hazel has been schoolmarm, mom, dad, full time only parent for months now, since there’s that international border that presents a bit of a problem for people traveling in either direction at the moment.  And her son is really high energy to boot.  I dunno that I wouldn’t be blind drunk by 11 am every freaking day if that was my life.  Just saying…

That’s nice, WTF do you do about WFH Burnout?

As luck would have it, this isn’t an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine – although the certainty that Cosmo would recommend some sex related thing that you do at least once a day to cure the boredom might be the real answer to the problem, now that I think about it a little more closely.  Or not.  Who’s got time for all that when so much of the day is either wasted navel gazing or has turned into such a tedious repetition of already boring tasks?  Rhetorical question, don’t spend any time pondering it.  

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My first suggestion is that you take a mental health day.  If you have a kid or kids at home, find someone else to watch them for the day, whatever trades you have to make to do it, just get it done.  Now that you’ve got the day free and alone –  OMG, do you hear that, free and alone?  It’s like manna from heaven! – do something that you either want to do but refuse to make time for lately (that’s probably sewing, reupholstering, refinishing, since I can’t really go anywhere) for whatever your reasons.  If you’re like me, you actually punish yourself by withholding fun things that you’d maybe want to do because the work slog isn’t finished or isn’t where it should be, so you decide to rationalize that by cutting back on the good, fun, creative stuff that would make you happier to be doing.

We are all just tired of this shit.

A friend commented the other day that she was just tired of it all.  She’s another long time WFH-er but all the sudden the kid and the husband are underfoot and around the house.  All day.  Every day.  And then all day.  The next day.   It’s a never ending cycle of too much togetherness.  It’s true around here also.  We don’t normally make it more than ten days without one of us getting on a plane or driving off somewhere for at least a couple of days.

We’ve never, in nearly nine years, spent this much time together every single day, and that includes the six weeks that we spent on the boat cruising in the San Joaquin river delta with the dogs, where we lived on a boat that had about as much room as our master bathroom to move around in, and not all of that was standing head room.

We’re all more than a little stir crazy, and I haven’t even touched on the people who are actually quarantined in their homes because they are very high risk or because they are ill at the moment.  I know multiple people on the quarantined for testing positive list right now, and I do feel bad for each of them but I’m not starting up that story right now, since it’s getting old and tired and no one wants to hear it any more.  Not at all.

And of course, if taking a mental health day and doing something by yourself or with a friend who doesn’t live with you isn’t an option, there is that dead drunk by 11 am day drinking thing.


Chief takeaway: WFH Burnout is real, we all have it, you have to shake up the apple cart to dislodge the bad apples, or something like that.

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