How To Spot WFH Burnout And 5 Ways To Deal With It

Kimberly Tan

The idea of work-from-home (WFH) seems enticing. You don’t have to dress up for work, endure a hellishly long commute, and turn up at the freezing cold office. It sounds like a dream come true, but the exhausting reality of WFH is creeping up on everyone, not just the extroverts.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak occurred in Malaysia, the work-from-home arrangement wasn’t an option for many companies (unless your job allows remote working, or you’re a freelancer). Then again, home is probably the last place you want to work at. Things took a dramatic turn when the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) was first announced back in 18 March 2020 to curb the spike of Covid-19 cases. Employers scrambled to develop effective business continuity plans to ensure smooth operations and compliance with the relevant standard operating procedures (SOPs). Office-based employees had to make an unprecedented shift to work from home indefinitely.

Fast forward to the present day, and we are in the midst of MCO 2.0. What’s different now? WFH is gradually becoming the new normal in Malaysia. Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by Google Meet and Zoom meetings. At times, we end up working longer hours because there’s zero commute, and we don’t really keep track of time at home. For parents, many had to juggle work and parenting. Those with school-age children have home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) added on their plates. Once the WFH novelty wears off, reality starts sinking in.

When you’re constantly stressed out and you can’t get out of the slump, that’s a tell-tale sign you are burned out. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes burnout as a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully tackled. How to tell if you are experiencing work burnout while at home? WHO’s explanation highlights three key aspects:

  •       Exhaustion. An early warning sign that’s largely ignored. It’s easy to dismiss exhaustion as sleep deprivation. However, it’s not purely physical. Mental and emotional exhaustion may arise as well. Thus, it’s important to be conscious of your own physical and emotional state, in order to detect the red flags.
  •       Engagement. Had a rough day at work? It happens to the best of us. But if these bad days occur way too often, you may be on the brink of job burnout. Other ways it manifests? You start feeling disengaged at work, and you catch yourself procrastinating and dodging your responsibilities.
  •       Efficacy. Unrealistic expectations and micromanaging may challenge one’s sense of professional efficacy. When you have lost your career confidence, you’ll feel that you’re unable to meet work-related demands. Pessimism seeps in and you become disillusioned with your job.

If left unchecked, WFH burnout can wreak havoc on your overall health, job performance, and interpersonal relationships. How do you nip it in the bud? Protect yourself from the ravages of work burnout with these actionable tips from Team AdEasy.

1. Stay Connected

Granted, physical distancing and social isolation are necessary in the current pandemic. But being stuck at home with the absence of human touch for a prolonged period of time can take a toll on everyone. Feeling overwhelmed? Our Product Guru, Vanessa, suggests taking some time off screen and talking to the people you live with. Living alone? Your friends and family are just one text or call away. Sometimes, all you need is a quick catch-up to blow off some steam.

chat with a friend


2. Exercise

Working out is a great way to release all that pent-up energy in a positive manner”, says Ashley, our Junior Media Maven. You’ll be surprised by the energy boost you get from exercising, after sitting stationary at your desk the whole day. Pro tip: pick a fitness routine that you truly enjoy, and you’re more likely to keep doing it.

home workout


3. Take A Break

Everyone in Team AdEasy collectively agrees that taking mini breaks throughout the work week helps in managing stress. Be it playing games, treating yourself to a good meal, or indulging in your favourite hobbies, taking the time to pursue leisure activities does wonders in recharging yourself before going back to the grind.

take a break


4. Get Enough Sleep

Ask yourself this: how many hours did you sleep last night? Chances are, the answer is “not enough”. While sleep requirements vary between individuals and life stages, research suggests that adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to function optimally. Poor sleep can negatively impact your coping ability, mental alertness, and productivity at work. Here’s a mini challenge for you: try going to bed an hour earlier tonight.



5. Unplug

Working from home does not mean working 24/7. The biggest downside of WFH is the lack of work-life boundary. As we are continuously online, we are becoming slaves to our screens. You can’t “leave work at the door” because you never left home in the first place. However, our mind needs time to unplug from the workday, just like how our body needs time to recover after an intense workout. AdEasy’s head honcho, Melissa strongly recommends having a cut-off time from work every day to avoid burnout. It’s tough to completely disconnect from technology, so creating better screen time habits during your off-work hours helps in preventing mental fatigue.

unplug from work


Productivity expert, David Allen wrote, “You can do anything, but not everything.” The WFH season won’t be ending anytime soon. Work burnout shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it can adversely affect your work and personal life. Pay attention to where you’re at emotionally. Check in with yourself once in a while and make sure you’re treating yourself kindly.