Working from home offers many potential benefits, from increased schedule flexibility to improved productivity. But virtual work can also lead to overwork from long hours glued to screens and indefinite start and stop times.
These habits can eventually create work from home fatigue that manifests as both physical and mental symptoms. Physically, you might feel tension in your neck and shoulder muscles, have headaches, develop wrist pain or suffer from eye strain. Mentally, you might feel drained and exhausted, experiencing a lack of focus and curtailed productivity.
The strategies below address how to overcome both physical and mental work-from-home fatigue.
Tips to beat physical working-from-home fatigue
George Chiang, an ergonomist and chief editor of the ergonomics and office health blog Ergonomic Trends, shared that one of the best ways to combat the physical effects of remote work fatigue is to do some low intensity workouts. Chiang added that the types of movements involved in low intensity workouts such as walking and yoga have been shown to be extremely effective, says Chiang.
“It may sound counterproductive to move when you’re tired, but science tells us that’s exactly what we should do,” Chiang says. “And when you’re working from home, the logistics are all there already.”
To incorporate lower intensity workouts into your routine when working at home, Chiang recommends the following:
— Get up and walk around when you’re on the phone. “Ten minutes of walking the stairs, for example, has been shown to boost your energy even better than caffeine,” Chiang says.
— Move your laptop to the kitchen counter. By using an elevated spot like a countertop for your laptop, you can work standing up from time to time. “Then, just walk in place or use an accessory like a wobble board for more creative exercises,” Chiang says.
— Keep moving during virtual meetings. Chiang advises making the best of boring Zoom meetings by exercising parts of your body that are out of sight, such as your hands or legs. One of his favorite leg exercises is called the seated leg abduction. “Simply wrap a resistance band around your legs at the knees, then open and close your legs slowly for a few reps,” Chiang explains.
— Incorporate some yoga. “A lot of times, fatigue is in fact a symptom of stress or depression,” Chiang said. Therefore, he suggests leveraging one of the best low intensity workouts that also improves your mood: yoga. “Many yoga poses also gradually strengthen your core and back, reducing the chances of developing back pain from prolonged sitting,” Chiang says.
— Take advantage of text to speech apps. Text to speech apps give you the opportunity to exercise while having documents and reports spoken to you. Chiang pointed out that Windows 10, Apple and Android devices now all come with built-in text-to-speech capabilities.
Tips to Beat Mental Working-From-Home Fatigue
When you feel unfocused, unproductive and tired while working at home, it’s time to break out some of these tried and true strategies to tackle your mental fatigue:
— Set aside your work for a while. When your thinking isn’t flowing well, you can clear your mental fatigue with a break. Get in the habit of taking regular and frequent pauses away from your desk and computer. Walk into another room and do something else for five or 10 minutes each hour or two. On your break, you can leverage the ideas discussed above, such as taking a brisk walk down the block or doing some yoga.
— Don’t skip meals and snacks. Without fuel for energy, your brain won’t perform well and you’ll feel sluggish and tired, exacerbating your work-from-home fatigue. With this in mind, plan ahead for consistent times you’ll eat breakfast, lunch and — if you’re working late — dinner. Don’t wait too long to refuel with nutritious snacks such as apples, carrot sticks, nuts, yogurt or string cheese.
— Practice mindfulness or meditation. On a busy day it can be challenging to fit in another to-do, but 10 to 20 minutes of deep breathing or meditation exercises can help you overcome work fatigue. Research has proven that meditation and mindfulness improve your focus and memory. This doesn’t have to be complicated; take a few minutes to sit somewhere away from your tasks, center your attention on breathing air into your lungs and releasing.
— Dispersing activities throughout your day. If you feel tired of working from home, mixing up what you do during the workday can help you overcome working from home fatigue. Whether it’s planning a jog, catching up with a co-worker online during lunch or spending a break time with a family member or roommate, ensuring that you do more during your day than cranking out company tasks will help you stay mentally fresh and productive.