Well-Being Tips for Remote and Hybrid Work 

It’s important to prioritize your well-being regardless of the location from which you’re working. For those working remotely at least part of the time, there are some specific challenges that require attention. Consider the tips below to support your well-being and to avoid burnout.

Maintain Boundaries

The boundaries between work and nonwork are blurred when both occur in the same location. People struggle to maintain a separation between their personal and professional lives. Home becomes associated with one’s work role, making it harder to unplug and leave the office. The desire to signal productivity and commitment plays a role for many, contributing to work bleeding into evening and weekend time. Research shows remote workers log an average of four more hours per week than their on-site counterparts. The extra time spent working means other activities and relationships that are important for work/life balance may be neglected. And people may never completely detach from work, which can lead to burnout and diminished mental health.

To establish healthy boundaries between work and home life, it helps to create structure and routines and to stick to them. Change into and out of work clothes to demarcate when you are “on the job.” Set aside time at the beginning of your day to prepare for work and at the end to leave it behind. This transitional time serves an important function in creating a temporal boundary around work and facilitating the process of transitioning from one role to the other. And be disciplined about not responding to emails after hours or allowing your attention to dwell on work concerns. This will allow for you to focus on being fully present in other parts of your life.

Make Breaks a Priority

With no colleagues around with whom to eat lunch or take a coffee break, many people working remotely find they sit in front of their computer for longer stretches and have more difficulty stopping to take breaks. But long stretches of focused attention deplete mental energy. Breaks enable our brains to rest and reset, reducing the cumulative buildup of stress over the course of the day. Research shows that taking breaks can also improve one’s mood and reduce burnout. Physical exercise such as walking and stretching are particularly useful in reducing the physical strain of sitting for long periods. And as this Microsoft study found, even short periods of meditation or relaxation can make a big difference. Schedule 10-minute breaks between meetings to allow yourself and others to rest and refresh. The Headspace app, available free of charge to BU faculty, staff, and students, has many short meditations you can use for brief breaks between meetings and activities. And step away from your work space when you take breaks, including when you eat lunch.

Avoid Tech Fatigue

Many people reported experiencing “Zoom fatigue” when the pandemic forced a dramatic shift from in-person to virtual meetings. Their eyes felt irritated and they felt exhausted after spending hours in back-to-back video meetings. To better understand this, the Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab examined the psychological consequences of prolonged video chats. Journalist Vignesh Ramachandran summarized the findings in Stanford News, describing four causes for video chat fatigue with attendant remedies.

  1. To reduce the intensity of excessive amounts of close-up eye contact, shift out of the full-screen option. Reduce the size of the window relative to the monitor to minimize the face size. Use an external keyboard to increase the personal space bubble between yourself and the grid.
  2. To reduce the negative emotional consequences of looking at oneself during virtual meetings, use the “hide self-view” option, which can be accessed by right-clicking on your own photo.
  3. To reduce the immobility that results from staying in the field of view, use an external keyboard or position the camera further from the screen. Also turn off your camera periodically during meetings and stand up or walk around.
  4. To reduce the increased cognitive load of generating and interpreting nonverbal communication over video, have “audio only” calls or take video breaks during meetings, turning off your camera and directing your gaze away from the screen.

It’s helpful for teams to discuss their norms for communication, encouraging the use of non-video communication when face-to-face is not necessary, and allowing people to turn off their cameras without fear of appearing disengaged.

Cultivate Wellness

Health-promoting factors such as regular exercise, good nutrition, work/life balance, and avoidance of negative outlets such as alcohol and drugs, can help you have the physical and mental energy to cope effectively with stress. It requires intentionality to develop and sustain healthy lifestyle practices. There are a number of resources at BU to support your efforts. The BU Employee Wellness website provides information about offerings on campus. The BU Faculty & Staff Assistance Office (FSAO) offers resilience building and mindfulness sessions, wellness videos, and Self-Care Tips & Resources. Consider scheduling a wellness visit with a FSAO counselor to explore options and develop a plan for enhancing your well-being.