Working from home (WFH), once seen as a job perk for a select few or a creative means of reducing office space and costs, has now become, for many, a necessity. But WFH requires discipline and rules—sometimes in surprisingly counterintuitive ways.

WFH. Telecommuting. The remote workspace. 

No crowded transit or noisy office with all its distractions. Just you, your cozy home, and a favourite pair of track pants. What could be better?

It can, in fact, be better—if you follow some simple tips and tricks and avoid a few perils, including burnout.

Burnout? Surely that’s not possible in the comfort of your own home office, is it? Actually, it is possible, and we list some ways to avoid WFH burnout below. The reasons, however, may come as a surprise. 

According to a United Nations labour report, employees are both more productive when they work outside the office and susceptible to working longer hours at a more intensive pace, all while trying to balance work with personal life distractions. 

But first, let’s look at some of the benefits (for both employee and employer) from working at home: 

Greater productivity.  A Stanford University study found “a highly significant 13% increase in employee performance” when working from home. Not only that, the research revealed WFH employees took fewer breaks and sick days while enjoying “substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores.” Interestingly, job attrition rates dropped by over 50%.

Lower costs. Fewer workers on site = a smaller office footprint. This applies to more than workstations: As the workplace goes increasingly virtual, square footage can be reduced with smaller meeting rooms, kitchens and lunch areas. Employees, meanwhile, save money on things like public transit, fuel and takeout coffee and meals.

Access to the best. When a company requires employees to be present in a defined workspace each day, it automatically limits its options in terms of who they can hire. In other words, there may be a potential gem of an employee out there beyond commuting range (or even in another country). 

So, for the at-home worker, what’s the best way to make the most of your telecommute? Writer Erik Devaney has put together a list of helpful tips to make your at-home working day the best it can be. These include:

  1. Start with a strong beginning. Hit your home workspace early. Get right to work on your project list—this will get you off to a good start and help set the pace for your day.
  2. This is your office, so act accordingly. Set an alarm and get up at a consistent time each morning. Make coffee. Dress nicely for work as you normally would (this will come in handy when you take part in a Skype or Zoom video conference and suddenly realize you’re wearing that old, ripped t-shirt you clean the house in). Wearing your office clothes also has the added psychological benefit of getting you in the right frame of mind for working.
  3. Wherever you work at home, make it consistent. Avoid couches or other places you associate with leisure time. Choose a spot, whether a home office or the kitchen table, and stick with it. 
  4. Keep busy. The more you have to get done, the more you’ll do. This can include, in a counterintuitive way, attending to a child or walking your dog. Additional time pressures like these, the theory goes, forces us to make our actual working time all the more productive.

This last point brings us back to the issue of burnout, and how to avoid it. When working from home first started being discussed, employers were initially hesitant. No doubt, visions of staff watching TV in their pajamas all day or otherwise slacking off were top of mind. 

In reality, the WFH picture is quite the opposite. When your remote workplace and your personal living space are one and the same, it becomes more challenging to mark where the workday begins and ends. The result: overwork and the temptation, no matter how late in the evening, to finish “just one more thing” before bedtime. 

How to avoid burnout, then? Start by simply packing away your laptop when the workday is finished. Or schedule regular events in your calendar with reminders—going to the gym, meeting friends, doing your grocery shopping—in order to make a mental transition back to your personal life. 

Or, if your employer is agreeable and conditions warrant it, come up with a combination of WFH and days when you go into the office. For some, this is the ideal combination. Employees get a boost from the flexibility and productivity of working from home, while employers can maintain a direct relationship with their staff.

Above all, when working from home stay connected—with the office, with your family and friends, and with yourself.