We’ve never been so connected in our lives. We have access to the virtual world at our fingertips and are constantly inundated with information. While this level of connection gives us the freedom to work remotely and work from home, which has benefitted many industries during the global health crisis, it can also be incredibly overwhelming and makes it so people feel like they’re “always on.”
While working from home can provide freedom in your daily routine and flexibility in your hours, it can also blur the boundaries between your work life and personal life. This lack of separation in combination with the constant connection and information flow digital devices provide can lead to burnout, leaving you feeling physically and mentally fatigued.
What is digital burnout?
To put it simply, digital burnout is feelings of stress and fatigue caused by the continued use of technology. Being connected all the time and spending countless hours in front of screens bombards your brain with a never-ending flow of information that eventually causes you to feel overwhelmed and worn out.
Burnout can affect people in different ways, but common symptoms of burnout include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Increased feelings of anxiety
- Lack of creativity
- Lack of motivation
Much like chronic stress, when left unchecked digital burnout can lead to long term health issues. Here are four ways you can combat digital burnout while working from home (and in general) to help you ensure you’re giving your body time to disconnect and recharge.
It’s important to set digital boundaries in both your work and personal life.
When working from home, the hours can quickly blur together and without the separation of a commute, you can easily find yourself putting in 12 hour days. Set a schedule for yourself and stick with it. Share that schedule with your co-workers so that they know when you’re available and when you’re on personal time. If it helps, set an alarm for yourself at the end of your working hours to give yourself a physical signal that you’re done for the day.
In your personal life, designate an area of your home a device-free zone and stick to it. You can keep your phone nearby in case of emergencies, but resist the urge to browse the internet or scroll through your social feeds in your device-free zone. This will give you a space where you’re able to disconnect and give your brain a break from the constant flow of information.
Turn Off Notifications
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be productive when your phone is constantly buzzing or you have notifications popping up on your screen. The constant notifications from text messages, emails, calendar reminders, group chats, etc. not only distract you from what you’re working on and make it difficult to complete a task, but they can also be overwhelming.
Whether it’s disabling desktop notifications, placing your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” or muting non-essential groups in chat apps like Slack, reducing the number of notifications you receive throughout the workday will not only help reduce the chances of digital burnout, it can also increase your productivity.
Opt-Out, Unfollow, Unsubscribe
It’s important to pick and choose which content we allow into our consciousness. In this digital age, we’re constantly inundated with content and it can quickly become overwhelming. Take some time to go through your inbox and social media feeds and unsubscribe, unfollow, or opt-out of the content that isn’t useful or interesting to you.
If you’re being overrun by marketing emails from a store where you bought a gift three years ago, opt-out. If there are YouTube channels or Facebook pages you’re not regularly engaging with or are no longer interested in, unfollow them. If you don’t read the newsletters from the five different social media marketing blogs you followed back in 2010, unsubscribe.
If you don’t want to fully unsubscribe to certain marketing emails or newsletters, set up filters in your inbox so that you’re able to engage with non-essential content on your own terms. By reclaiming control over the content and information you allow into your mental space, you’re less likely to feel like you’re on information overload and one step further from burnout.
Find Ways to Actively Disconnect
To put it simply, our brains need a break from the constant connection. It’s key to engage in activities that allow you to actively disconnect from the digital sphere. Invest time in activities that don’t take place in front of a screen. Whether it’s picking up a book (not your Kindle or iPad!), spending time working on a puzzle, going for a walk with your pet or a friend, or whatever brings your joy and helps you decompress, it’s important to schedule a time for these activities into your daily routine.
Digital technology has many benefits and has helped connect us on a global scale, but too much time spent connected to the digital sphere can be detrimental to your health. It’s important to set boundaries and take the time to disconnect, especially when you work from home so that you’re not a risk of digital burnout. By being more aware of how you’re engaging with digital tech, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of technology without experiencing the drain that can come with overuse.