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3 important reasons to take a break when working from home

October 14, 2020

Working from home, which has become mainstream amid COVID-19, has its fair share of advocates and critics. In the pre-pandemic world, the occasional work from home (WFH) used to be viewed as a privilege by most. And there are numerous studies that intone its benefits: reduced or zero commuting costs, more free time, increased time to spend on work, better productivity, and so on. But, 100 days into COVID-19’s workplace restrictions, it’s hard to say that remote work has grown on everybody. In fact, there are credible misgivings about it.

Most employers and employees agree that sustained 100% WFH can’t be the answer in the long-run. But, for the moment, if your job requires you to work remotely, you’ve got to learn how to stay productive without getting drained or demotivated.

At the heart of the issue here is COVID-19’s widespread psychological impact, which a mishmash of work and home responsibilities do nothing to alleviate. “No one can work non-stop and be productive, particularly in the context of a global pandemic,” says Anna Whitehouse, founder of Flex Appeal, as quoted by CNBC.  And the numbers corroborate her statement.

A recent survey by Monster  indicates that 50% of employees working remotely due to the novel coronavirus are experiencing burnout. More worryingly, 52% of them do not have their eyes set on taking a break! This oddity could be due to the fact that some managers expect employees to be ‘always online’ or because of the sheer pressure of being an ‘ideal employee’ in the midst of mass layoffs. Nonetheless, it’s vital that you take strategic pit stops along this new journey so that you don’t find yourself running on empty. Firms like Google, for instance,  have already issued company-wide holidays specifically to address WFH-related burnout.

Given this scenario, here are 3 crucial reasons why you should take leave even (and especially) while working from home during these trying times.

 

You can’t burn the candle at both ends: Destress or face burnout

Adapting to remote work is demanding and, for the untutored, work from home can very easily spiral into a frenzy of panic working. Leaving emails mid-way to attend to ‘urgent’ tasks, aimlessly thumbing through company Slack chats, scheduling video meetings without an agenda, disrupting work every second minute to check a Hangouts notification, cramming a host of tasks into the workday, and signing out with less accomplished than what the flurry of activity indicated is common in this scenario. So, if you find yourself overworking yet underperforming, it’s a good sign you need to give anxiety and yourself a break!

Work-related stress is at an all-time high amid the pandemic and 70% of employees surveyed  by Ginger, a mental health provider, acceded that COVID-19 has been the most stressful time of their professional career.

You want to avoid the mental, emotional, and physical toll of working under stressful situations. The key to this is learning to work smarter not harder.

To accomplish this, you can do two things.

One: Study these best-practices for staying productive  when working from home.

Two: Take scheduled breaks, be it a long weekend, a series of half-days, or the week off.

Think like a pole-vaulter and plan for a good run-up—it’s the only way to jump high. Likewise, if you want to raise the bar while remote working, take a break to replenish your energy!

 

A new lease of life: Enjoy real family time and reconnect with friends

“Man is by nature a social animal,” said Aristotle and there are numerous studies that outline the benefits of having a good social life.

With WFH it can be tempting to think that because you’re perennially surrounded by your family, you’re scoring well in all these areas. Turns out that the opposite may be truer. A recent study by GearHungry.com revealed that 47% of men felt that the pandemic-related WFH routine caused relationship strain. The problem? One is that families need time to get used to the concurrent WFH routines and with everyone stepping into each other’s space, tensions can escalate quickly.

Moreover, spending hours at home doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re devoting an ounce of quality time to your family. Relationships demand attention and shared activities, among other things. With WFH however, it is very easy to slip into the habit of multi-tasking: attending Zoom calls while helping the kids, sending quick emails while at the table and so on.

Further, when it comes to friends, instant messaging can tend to cut a small figure of commitment – one of the vital signs of a healthy relationship – even as you can avoid situations as easily as leaving a message unread.

Think of your relationships as potted plants that need the nourishment of physical interactions, time, trust, communication, and shared experiences. Multitasking at home and interacting digitally don’t give you all of this. If you want to see your social life grow, create space for it – take a break!

 

Make time to take time off: Sign up for a vacation or a staycation to focus on You

Not only are work days getting longer, with some surveys revealing an additional 48 minutes a day as commonplace during WFH, but the office is now also encroaching on personal time.

A study  by Microsoft indicated that the 9-to-5 workday could eventually be a relic of the past, with pre- and post-work hour chats on Teams up by 15% and 23% respectively, and chats on the weekend up by 200%. While flexible hours may be the new blueprint for productivity, it all depends on whether you’ve mastered the art of extracting pockets of rest and inserting slots for personal work during your daily routine. Even then, the strain of constantly managing time keeps you away from tasks that are important yet not urgent.

Examples of these include long-term financial planning, career development, personal growth or even relationship building. Part of Stephen Covey’s Priority Matrix, these tasks have the power to alter the course of your life for the better. Yet, addressing them or even thinking about them requires time. WFH, whether during the current pandemic or not, doesn’t really offer anyone the space and time to consider the bigger picture or take strides towards it.

Taking leave from work for a few days may just be the only way for you to find out if you’re headed where you intend to go. Whether it is finally taking that career enhancing course, meeting with financial advisors to plan for your kids’ future or simply taking time to ponder your life and get some much-needed R&R, a break from work is sometimes essential.

 

At the end of the day – or workday! – WFH burnout is real. It is thus crucial that you schedule some time off rather than react when you find yourself dealing with conspicuous warning signs.

To quote multiple authors, “Take a break, before you break!”

 

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