Between Slacking and Burnout: How to Master Working from Home

Woman working from home with laptop on the window sill

Pijamas on weekdays. No commute. Home office. The pandemic stripped normality from our daily lives, catching us by surprise. But, we’ve adapted. We embraced the work from home life as quickly as we (and our employers) could.

Statistics show that some people occasionally worked from home even before the pandemic. But most of them rarely took advantage of the option. With COVID-19 transforming every aspect of our lives, work from home became part of the so-called ‘new normal’. 

This transition hasn’t been that easy on all of us. Many of you probably find it hard to concentrate in the comfort of your home. Or maybe you end up working way too many extra hours each day. 

The question is: Are you ready to go back to some kind of a work-life balance?


If so, you will find some proven tactics and techniques that will help you do your best while working from home in this article, so keep reading.


For the times when you need a bit more motivation

Hey, we won’t point any fingers here. Anyone could fall down the slippery slope of procrastination. When you find yourself easily distracted in your home office, it’s time to change something. Here are a few twists you can try:


Find a rhythm that works

Is your current routine not working? Do you feel like no matter how long your workday is, you can’t get much done. It might be due to having your day torn from meetings or your to-do list has suddenly got too heavy and diverse. You, my friend, need to redefine your work rhythm. 

How do you do that? Start with examining when you feel most productive. Is it early morning? Mid-day? Late at night? If you have a flexible schedule, you have more power. The bottom line is, select 5 priority tasks each day and focus on them in your most productive time. If you don’t get much further than that, at least you would have prioritised the right things.


Have a work switch

By now you are probably aware of what distracts you most. You may have even tried to eliminate distractions from your workspace entirely. But still, you can’t get in a productive mood. Maybe your mind wonders and your focus is off. In this piece debunking 7 remote work myths, the author makes a great example of having one thing that triggers your work mode. She made a great example with Clark Kent’s glasses. Removing them was the one thing that marked his transformation into Superman.

So, what should you take from that? Find what switches your brain into work mode. Maybe it’s a certain song that gets you in the mood or just putting on a tie. Whatever it is, it has the chance to trick your brain into being productive. So use it.


Take a nap

“Wait, what? I thought this was a list of productivity tips”…is probably what you are thinking right now. As absurd as it sounds, a nap might not be such a bad idea. If your body is naturally telling you to take a nap, learn to read the signs. The sleepiness that befalls in the middle of the afternoon, the grogginess, the mood swings. Honestly, try a 15-minute nap (longer than that would have the opposite effect) and see what happens. A light snooze will make you much more productive and give you the needed boost to finish the workday on a high.


For the times when you are on the verge of a burnout

Tired frustrated businessman working from home online sitting at home office with laptop during quarantine and self isolation period at pandemic

Maybe you are from the second type of people. The ones who overwork themselves no matter where they are. The ones who linger in their email inbox way past the close of business hours. You are at home and not doing much anyway, why not see what this client needs? You are soon, if not already, going to feel the burn. There is a reason why the working day lasts for 8 hours at most companies. 

Are you struggling to find a way to slow down? Work never ends. But your wellbeing will be compromised if you keep overworking yourself. Here are three antidotes to try today:


Schedule something to do right after work

It could be a call with your grandma or an online workout session with your favourite instructor. Just find something else to do. In order for this to work, you need to be self-initiative.

 You sure have hobbies and things you like to commit to outside of work. Pick one each day and just add some urgency to it. Mark it in your schedule as a ‘to-do’ and assign it a clearly defined timeslot. If that’s your thing, of course. The idea is that you engage in an activity that kicks your brain out of ‘work’ mode and lets you relax. 


Have a separate space just for work

Perhaps the most popular work from home advice you’ll read. After all, the problem with using your home as your office lies in the fact that our brains are not wired to mix both. As James Clear argues in his book Atomic Habits, both success and failure can be attributed to our environment

So, if it’s hard for your brain to draw the line between work and life, you need to do it using your space. It doesn’t have to be a whole different room. Your ‘home office’ could be just a corner of a room. Leaving that space, however, must tell your brain “Work is over, now we relax”. If you couple it with the work ‘switch’ object from the tips above, it works even better. 

Your working space should be used only for work. Have your lunch elsewhere and try to separate your living space as much as possible. Also, stay connected with colleagues. This will make working from home experience as close to a real-office experience as it can be.


Reach out to friends or a professional

The last year has brought upon all of us constant waves of stress, uncertainty and bad news. We’re more isolated than ever and it’s easy to get caught up in work to try to escape or avoid all of this. 

You need to remember that you are not the only one who might be dealing with a work overload or burnout. But you might have to be the one starting the discussion. We might be physically separated from each other but we can still pick up the phone and video chat with our friends. You can even have a session with a therapist online these days.

If you are close to having your batteries drained from all the work and stress, reach out to a professional and talk about it. You owe it to your mental health. 

The Mental Health Stigma

Mental health stigma remains a barrier to sustainable well-being of people worldwide, hindering their ability to seek help and live fulfilling lives.

There are four types of mental health stigma: public stigma, self-stigma, institutional stigma, and structural stigma.

  • Public stigma arises from societal misconceptions and prejudices, leading to discrimination and exclusion.
  • Self-stigma occurs when individuals internalise these negative beliefs, resulting in shame and reluctance to acknowledge their mental health struggles.
  • Institutional stigma manifests in biased policies within healthcare and societal institutions, while structural stigma involves broader societal norms and practices that perpetuate discrimination.

To dismantle these stigmas, education plays a crucial role. Promoting awareness and understanding of mental health challenges helps dispel myths and promotes empathy. Encouraging open conversations and sharing personal experiences reduces self-stigma and empowers individuals to seek help without fear of judgment.

Advocating for policy changes to eliminate discriminatory practices in healthcare and other institutions is essential, as is challenging societal norms that contribute to structural stigma. Ultimately, fostering a culture of compassion and acceptance is vital in creating a world where mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health.

Additional work-from-home resources:

Compensation for employees in the Netherlands working from home – some Dutch employers have been compensating their employees’ work-from-home additional costs

The best online tools to use when working from home – Must-have tools that will enhance your work-from-home experience