When the pandemic started, working from home sounded like a dream for many of us. Even for many people who have been working from home for years before it became mandatory, no one is immune to the downsides that can come along with it.
Sure, you don’t need to worry about a traffic jam on the way from your bedroom to the kitchen, and that extra hour of sleep in the morning isn’t the worst. You don’t have to see that one co-worker that you try to hide from to avoid a conversation about what they made for dinner last night and no one will look at you funny for not wearing pants while working. This all sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, that being said, working from home is not always so idyllic.
You’re Working Around The Clock
Do you find yourself checking your email at 9 pm? How about letting meetings run into your dinner time or not even taking a break for lunch? Many studies show that people who work from home are more productive, but just how much they’re working is another story. Gone are the days that you can “leave work at the office.” Setting boundaries when working from home can be difficult, and in turn, you may find yourself never truly being able to “turn off.” Truthfully, it can be easy to burn yourself out when working from home.
You may be loving not having to make small talk with your cubicle neighbor, and not having one of your team members pop by every 5 minutes makes it so much easier to get into flow. Having time and space for yourself to get work done is incredibly valuable. However, not having anyone around is both a blessing and a curse. When something isn’t going right, or you’re stuck, there isn’t always someone to turn to for help. You can start to feel like your head is spinning when staring at the four walls of your living room, and the time it takes you to solve the problem on your own can take 5x longer. We’re all human, and we rely on each other for support. Not being able to have immediate in-person interaction can quickly drain your spirits.
Suffering from Zoom Fatigue
No one will argue that video chat is vital to staying connected to your team and clients when working from home. But why does it make you so exhausted? Well, on video chats, our minds work harder to process the nonverbal expressions, such as tone, pitch, and body language. Paying more attention to these things can drain energy a lot quicker. Silence is another contributor. Silence is a natural part of in-person conversations, but when it happens on a video call, you can become anxious or uncomfortable. From team huddles to one on one meetings to client calls, many are finding their exhaustion levels rising.
Even with tools like Slack and Zoom, you may still be feeling isolated from community. It’s easy to be in the habit of working from home all day, and then remaining in your home for the rest of the day. Doing this week after week can drain your spirits and you may find yourself craving human interaction more than ever. Working in a shared environment means a lot more impromptu water cooler conversations, something that remote workers don’t have. So, when you find yourself talking to your house plants, you know it’s time to find another way to include human interaction into your day.
If you live with other people, interruptions are an inevitable part of working from home. Instead of “it’s someone’s birthday, let’s grab cake in the lunchroom,” it’s your 2 year old wanting you to play blocks or trying to find a quiet space in your home to do a zoom call without waking up your baby or having the delivery person ring the doorbell and need your signature. With school ending shortly and summer camps being canceled this year, and coffee shops being unavailable to work in, many parents are struggling to find the time to do head down work without being constantly interrupted.
In the beginning, you were in flow. Free from office distractions, no commute, and comfy clothes- you found yourself on a roll. However, after a few weeks of working too much, your bandwidth has decreased and you no longer feel like you have the brainpower to get anything done. You’re burnt out. When deadlines start being pushed, and goals start being missed, it can take a toll on your mental health. Meeting goals and deadlines boosts your overall morale and helps you mitigate stress. Without it, you can start to spiral and become less productive working at home than you did in the office.
Despite the challenges above, remote work can be rewarding- as long as you know what you're getting into and can handle these common issues. If you persevere, you'll enjoy flexibility, autonomy, and higher productivity. But no doubt, working from home is never as glamorous as it seems, and having a balance between work and home seems to always be the best fit for most people.