It’s been nearly five months since our office closed and we set up all gappers to work remotely. Five lonely months of sitting in my black track pants, with weird bun on my head, while navigating through Brady Bunch-blocks of meetings on Zoom, homeschooling children, and figuring out how to continue to meet goals from my couch. The truth is that this has been hard for me. I like working with people in an office setting. Even if I lock myself in my office 9 hours at a time, I still have the opportunity to connect face-to-face with a number of wonderful people. It energizes me and gives me a sense of purpose. It has been challenging to recreate that from my home and I realized that burnout was imminent unless I made some changes to both my daily routine and my long-term plans.

I have come up with a top ten list (in no particular order) that I hope will help others avoid hitting that mental burnout that comes from not being able to separate work from home.

Ten Ways to Avoid Burnout

1. Get plenty of sleep (naps are ok too!).During the first month of working from home, I was completely unable to turn off devices, notifications, and messages 24/7. I’d find myself crashing at 3am only to awaken at 6am, worried that I had missed something. This is not sustainable for anyone. As a management team at gap, we realized that other employees may be having this issue as well, so a remote work day policy was created to designate specific hours of work that encourages employees to unplug after a standard work day. By shutting off my laptop by 6pm, I was able to make sure I had time to ‘unwind’ before getting to bed at a more reasonable time of 11pm.

2. Exercise. Ok, so I’m not exactly in tip top shape. That was true before COVID hit, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get exercise on most days. In fact, it has been my saving grace during some very stressful periods over the past few months. My neighborhood is full of hills and while I can no longer leap through them at an 8 minute per mile pace, I can still chug along nicely while clearing my head of a frustrating day. Sometimes I schedule a walk/jog in the middle of a stressful day so that I can recharge and come back with a renewed sense of purpose to finish a task or project. Sometimes I bring my kids with me to the track and all three of us will trot along together.

3. Take Vacation Days. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. You don’t need to head off to Tahiti to enjoy a vacation day or two…or ten! Being cooped up at home for long periods of time is stressful. Everyone needs a reset and break from the strange world around us. Our work days at gap intelligence typically call for 4 hour Fridays. This has been a great opportunity to take 4 hours at a time and spend the day doing fun things (or boring errands) with my kids that allows me to connect with them and to reduce stress. We’ve done a number of ‘day trips’ that have truly felt like a vacation, even without a hotel and sitting in restaurants.

4. Connect with Coworkers. While I am a bit tired of hearing “we’re all in this together” over and over, the truth is that we are all dealing with circumstances that are challenging. Take some time to connect with others in your office. I am so incredibly grateful that gap intelligence encourages connection through regular remote gappy hours and trivia nights. Although it’s not exactly the same as being able to hang out in person, it fills that void of loneliness with fun and conversation with people that I miss dearly.

5. Self-Reflection. There are times during the day that I find myself working working working, yet seemingly accomplishing very little. When this happens, I try to take inventory of how I am feeling. Am I anxious, fearful, tired, angry, or sad? If so, then I stop what I’m working on and start journaling my thoughts for 20 minutes. Just getting those thoughts on paper (even if I shred it later), helps me move past those feelings and then get back into my groove of working efficiently again.

Conceptual photo illustrating burnout syndrome at work

6. Set Realistic Goals Each Day. I am frequently guilty of filling my calendar with back-to-back meetings, projects, and dedicated time blocks towards completing tasks that are unrealistic. I am also guilty of working way past those time blocks, which ultimately either leaves me working much too late into the day or leaving me frustrated that I didn’t accomplish everything I had set out to do when I started that morning. The best way to avoid overbooking and planning is to create open spaces during the day of 30-60 minutes at a time that will allow you to either finish a project that took longer than expected, or give yourself time to recharge before hitting the next meeting, or starting on a new task. The work (in most instances) will still be there tomorrow.

7. Seek Guidance. Whether it’s from a friend, family member, or professional, asking for guidance during stressful times is so important. I have come to rely on my family quite a bit to help me sort through the roller coaster of feelings the past several months.

8. Unwind Whether it’s a Netflix binge, large glass of pinot, or a new trashy novel, find ways to unwind after work that allows you to leave your reports on that laptop until the next morning. You deserve to take a real break and completely tune out to anything work related.

9. Call Your Friends and Family I did not say TEXT your friends and family. Call them. Being disconnected from others since March left me feeling anxious about when that next family reunion will be or when I will be able to fly out to Virginia to see my best friend. The next best thing has been to get on the phone and have long conversations. I’ve reconnected with so many old friends and family since March and I am grateful for this opportunity to do so.

10. Focus on What You Can Control. You’ve heard “these are uncertain times” mentioned many times over during the past several months. While it may be true that we have no idea what next few months or year look like, it should not be looked at as the doorway to infinity. It may be easier said than done, but work to keep a positive attitude. Find the simple joys around you. Whether it’s being able to spend more time with your dog, your kids, or your significant other, look for things to be grateful for in your life. You can also control your actions. Make a difference to those around you by being kind, mindful, and a good listener. Visualize what success looks like and believe that you already have the power to make it happen.

Less of this…

Laptop with StickersMore of this…

My fluffy puppy

Do you have what it take to be a gapper? We’re hiring. Head to our culture section to learn more about open positions. We’re conducting phone interviews as we work towards flattening the curve.