The best way to deal with burnout is to prevent it happening in the first place. When you work remotely it’s very easy to work long hours without getting up from your laptop and over an extended period of time this can have a negative impact on your health. Avoiding burnout is not only something that you should do for your personal health, but for the general health of the company. That makes it important that you take at least some of the below advice on board and not consider yourself to be immune to stress and burnout.
Boundaries are important for allowing you to switch modes between work and relaxing. If you work everywhere and at any time then there is always the possibility that you could be working and it becomes very easy to open your laptop to do just one thing. Equally, without boundaries, it’s easy for your life to interfere with your work time. You can create physical boundaries (going to a co-working space, home office, or dedicated desk), temporal boundaries (only working at specific times), or psychological boundaries (going for a walk before starting work, having different desktops on your computer for work/not work, putting on your headphones). You may use a mixture of boundaries but you should always have some.
Get out of your house. It’s easy to spend days at home and without seeing anyone else. Get out and do something completely unrelated to work. If you have other responsibilities such as caring for children or parents, try not to let that be the only other thing that you do. Have things in your life that are for you, whether that’s playing an instrument, going to the movies regularly, working out, or whatever.
Do not sit at your computer for long stretches without taking a break. Working without breaks will not only make you unproductive in the long term, it is physically unhealthy and will negatively impact your body over time. Take regular screen breaks, get up and walk around, and make sure you take a proper break for lunch.
Take advantage of the flexibility
At Human Made you are not required to work at set times or for specific hours. You should take advantage of this flexibility. You can create a working pattern that suits you – if you prefer to work in the evenings you should (though make sure you have time off during the day). If ad hoc opportunities come up feel free to take advantage of them and don’t feel guilty for taking a morning or afternoon off just because you feel like it.
Human Made’s 35 day holiday policy is not just a nice perk to attract people to join the company. It’s a pragmatic policy that we have to ensure that everyone in the company feels empowered to take time off when they need it. You have the freedom to take as much holiday as you want and you should take that holiday to ensure that you have a good work/life balance and that you have adequate recovery time after big projects. We recommend taking at least a week every 2-3 months. Time can be taken off during client projects – it helps your team if you can plan this in advance. If you have worked on a long or stressful project we recommend taking a longer holiday to properly recuperate.
Externalise your work
Don’t keep all of your work in your head and try to keep on top of it in there. Write it down in some format. Once it is externalised you can safely stop thinking about it, knowing that you will return to it when you have completed some other piece of work. There are a number of ways you can externalise: the most basic is a to-do list written on a piece of paper. We use tools like Github and Trello to keep ongoing shared task lists of what teams have to do.
Learn to prioritise
Not everything that you have on your to-do list is of equal priority. You need to prioritise your tasks so that the most important things get done first. The longer an important task waits to get done the more pressure it puts on you. If you have problems prioritising talk to your manager, team lead, or project manager about what you have to do and get some guidance from them on what your priorities are. You’ll find that over time you will get better at it.
Be realistic about what you can do
Your working week is around 40 hours. Within that week you have to do a lot of communication including responding to tickets on Github, chatting on Slack, Zoom meetings, and writing on P2s. And then you have the work that you can get done. When agreeing to or estimating work be realistic about what you can achieve in a week. Avoid taking on additional responsibilities that will have you working long hours into the evening and over your weekend.