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Research suggests we need to create a new kind of work-life balance to prevent burnout while working from home.
- Over the last decade, remote working has become more and more popular. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 62% of people are now working from home.
- Up to 40% of survey respondents say they feel more productive while working from home. However, there are also negative impacts, such as not taking as many breaks. "Employee burnout" is increasing at an alarming rate.
- Telecommuting and remote working will be the norm long after the pandemic, according to many outlets. There are things we can do to ensure we are maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Remote working versus working in an office<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQwMzg5NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDQwNjk5NH0.9sY-gXgXN7T-3IyFrIGeFPVDQLZB79amjZxgachS83Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="feb7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f671e5d5b826d13d7b7fe18e5296e3db" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="person sitting on the floor with a laptop, cat, and spreadsheets around them" />
Working at home presents different challenges than working in the office, and with remote working becoming the norm, we need to create a new kind of work-life balance to prevent burnout.
Photo by Creative Lab on Shutterstock<p>While there are many benefits to working from home (40.1 percent of survey respondents say they did feel more productive while working from home), there are also things we need to be conscious of with this new remote work normality.</p><p><strong>You may actually be working more hours at home than you do at work.</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.bluejeans.com/blog/future-of-work-2020-remote-work-survey-results#:~:text=Across%20our%20survey%20population,%20remote,additional%204.64%20hours%20per%20day.&&x-clickref=1011l9guUxfc&utm_source=skimlinks_phg&utm_medium=partnerize&utm_content=ecom" target="_blank">Across this survey,</a> remote workers were adding an additional 3.13 hours per day working from home compared to when they worked in the office. People who said they felt more productive at home than at the office were reportedly working an additional 4.64 hours per day. </p><p>While this may not seem like a big change at first, over time it can become detrimental to your mental health and your productivity. <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-employees-feeling-burnout-rises-top-stressor-list-justin-black/" target="_blank">According to new data</a>, employee survey comments surrounding "burnout" have doubled from 2.7 percent in March to 5.4 percent in April.</p><p><strong>Your eating and exercise habits may become worse while you're working from home.</strong></p><p>Along with potential burnout, picking up bad habits while working from home is another thing to be wary of. According to the <a href="https://www.bluejeans.com/blog/future-of-work-2020-remote-work-survey-results#:~:text=Across%20our%20survey%20population,%20remote,additional%204.64%20hours%20per%20day.&&x-clickref=1011l9guUxfc&utm_source=skimlinks_phg&utm_medium=partnerize&utm_content=ecom" target="_blank">Bluejeans survey</a>, 39 percent of people are reaching for salty snacks over healthy ones. Additionally, nearly 50 percent of respondents say they have not been able to exercise regularly since they switched from office to remote working. </p><p><strong>Distractions can cut your productivity.</strong></p><p>The hustle and bustle of home life can also take a toll on your productivity. Taking care of kids (27.6 percent), scrolling through social media (26.5 percent) and checking on the news (26.1 percent), along with getting distracted by streaming services and television shows (9.7 percent) are among the most commonly reported distractions that remote workers face, cutting into their productivity during working hours.</p>
Healthy changes to make when you're working from home<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQwMzg5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzA4NTI3N30.cAWiaP10VoutwuflzE0KITL-rolqCalO5iFv0xjXZdA/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="5fc4d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2c6719e1290ba11745e9b1aa51b6abe7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="woman leaning backwards with her head on her desk and her eyes closed" />
Taking breaks throughout the work-from-home day (even as little as 10 minutes) can allow you to become more productive during working hours.
Photo by stockfour on Shutterstock<p>This shift in remote working has proven many jobs are capable of being done at home, and <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/06/telecommuting-will-likely-continue-long-after-the-pandemic/" target="_blank">several outlets</a> are reporting that telecommuting will likely continue for quite some time, even after the pandemic.</p><p>While there are many benefits from remote working (such as lower fuel emissions, less waste, more productivity in some instances along with containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus), there are also some changes that need to be made if this is going to continue longer term.</p><p><strong>Separate your home and work responsibilities. </strong></p><p>Between scrolling through social media, checking the news, and taking care of your children, you may be feeling the pressure to crack down more than the usual to slow down, but new research shows just how important it is to take breaks while working from home.<br></p><p><a href="https://www.jobillico.com/blog/en/yes-you-still-need-to-take-breaks-while-working-from-home/#:~:text=Taking%20work%20breaks%20leaves%20us,likely%20to%20seek%20employment%20elsewhere." target="_blank">This article explains</a>: "Work and home are two separate places for a reason. Both require our attention and effort but in different ways. Completing work assignments and fulfilling personal responsibilities are both important things we do every day and having these two worlds physically separate helps us channel our energy the proper way at the proper time." </p><p>Removing that separation, although necessary and even beneficial in some instances, can cause us to become overwhelmed. </p><p><strong>Take regular breaks from work, even just for 10 minutes. </strong></p><p>When there is a lack of separation in our home and work lives, it can lead to a feeling of "always being on"—which is how burnout happens. Taking breaks throughout the day and "signing off" for period of home-time allows us to be productive at work and recharge during the restful periods. Even a break as short as <a href="https://www.jobillico.com/blog/en/10-things-to-do-with-your-10-minute-break/" target="_blank">10 minutes</a> can help increase your productivity and keep you from burning out.<br></p><p><strong>Perhaps the solution is working less days per week at home. </strong></p><p>According to <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/11/04/776163853/microsoft-japan-says-4-day-workweek-boosted-workers-productivity-by-40?t=1592549642729" target="_blank">this 2019 study</a>, a 4-day workweek can improve worker's productivity by up to 40 percent. In <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/big-idea-for-the-new-decade-4-day-week-phenomenon-told-in-new-book-300934244.html" target="_blank">a 2018 survey in New Zealand</a>, a trust management company explained they saw a 20 percent gain in employee productivity and a 45 percent increase in employee work-life balance after testing out the 4-day work week. </p>
New research suggests parenthood helps couples tune into each other's minds and emotional states.
A parental mind meld?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="RD5MOy8L" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="49925d9c7b1486a38b4b60f0f88f39a2"> <div id="botr_RD5MOy8L_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/RD5MOy8L-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/RD5MOy8L-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/RD5MOy8L-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Co-parenting is common in society and science experiments, but researchers led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, wanted to see how the physical presence of a co-parenting spouse affected brain responses.</p><p>To do this, they brought in "24 mother-father dyads" (read: couples). First, they asked the couples to complete a questionnaire on how often the mother or father took the lead in parenting. They then asked them to listen to infant and adult vocalizations under two conditions, separately in different rooms and together in the same room. </p><p>Using <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/functional-near-infrared-spectroscopy" target="_blank">functional near-infrared spectroscopy</a>, the researchers measured the couples' brain activity in their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/prefrontal-cortex" target="_blank">prefrontal cortex</a>—an area of the brain associated with planning, emotional regulation, and executive functions.</p><p>These scans revealed the couples to be synchronous, meaning their brain activity was similar and in the same areas of the brain. This synchronicity was only found in the together condition and was greater among parents who were younger, had only one child, and share parenting responsibilities more often.</p><p>As a control, the researchers also performed the experiment with randomly matched couples. They showed no synchronous effect in either condition; only true couples mirrored each other's minds.</p><p>These results suggest two affects of co-parenting. First, partners who parent together grow attune to each other's emotional state—so much so that the couples' brains may be pliantly changing to match. Though, the study notes, such a conclusion is beyond the scope of its methodology. Further research would be necessary.</p><p>"Our study indicates that when spouses are physically together, there is greater synchrony in their attentional and cognitive control mechanisms when parenting," Gianluca Esposito, the paper's senior author and an associate professor at Nanyang, <a href="https://sg.news.yahoo.com/parents-brains-sync-looking-children-together-says-study-145816568.html" target="_blank">told <em>Yahoo News</em></a>.</p><p>Second, time spent co-parenting helps couples shoulder the mental and emotional difficulties of looking after children.</p><p>However, that finding also points to the obverse. That is, parents who spend little time co-parenting together—whether because of work, separation, or one parent taking on the responsibility wholly—will be less likely to coordinate empathy. As Esposito explains:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Since the brain response of parents may be shaped by the presence of the spouse, then it is likely that spouses who do not spend much time together while attending their children may find it harder to understand each other's viewpoint and have reduced ability to coordinate co-parenting responsibilities. This may undermine the quality of parental care in the long run.</p><p>So, it may not take a village, but it's certainly nice to have someone around who understands your feelings like its second nature.</p>
Brain gains aren't just for kids<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI4MTAwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjgxMjM1N30.qMp-JpQXoNfp5r5CpZ6tKBffmL9QQ0gqlX7O3bo07ls/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C244%2C0%2C166&height=700" id="b9ca2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9912bc55310c3ab7add8445cb96faabb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Research has shown that fathers who take on care responsibilities also activate the mental "parent network."
Most people don't know what they're passionate about.
- A niche, in terms of the economy and what you do for a living, is often considered a special talent or service that speaks to you on a different, secondary level. Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR's "Planet Money" argues that when a niche finds an audience and becomes a successful business, it evolves into its own primary economy.
- For most people, finding something you're passionate about can take a long time. The search should happen concurrently with your current job and life, not in place of them.
- It won't be easy and there will have to be sacrifices, Davidson says. But when it's something that you can't live without doing, then it is worth investing the time and effort.
It's normal if you're not productive in your creativity all the time. Even the greats took breaks.
- Creative types can feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to be prolific, especially in times like these when, in theory, free time is abundant. Creativity is a resource that takes different forms and like other resources, it has its limits.
- According to Elizabeth Alexander, poet and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it's common for artists to have gaps in the chronology of their work. Familial commitments, depression, and health troubles are among the very valid reasons to not be producing creative works.
- Borrowing a term from jazz musicians, Alexander explains that creatives can also go through a period of 'woodshedding,' a term that refers to the practice of working on one's craft and experimenting in a private place (like a wood shed) until it is ready to be shared with the world.
Removing the pressure of finding your "dying passion" makes it easier to connect with the "why" of your work.
- Do you know your purpose in life? If not, London Business School professor Dan Cable says that's OK. It's normal, even.
- Many people have trouble finding their purpose because the task itself is too demanding. One way to solve this problem is by connecting with the end user of your work.
- For example, Microsoft will take its teams on site to interview clients and find solutions. Programmers understand who's using their products by hearing it straight from the source, and this gives more meaning to their work.