How to avoid the WFH burnout and tell your boss you aren’t coping

Burnout. A buzzword associated with exposure to continual stress, frequently used to describe the symptoms of exhaustion that a person feels at a physical, emotional and psychological level. With working from home becoming the new normal during this pandemic, the flexible work revolution has been triggered. 

According to a survey conducted by Indeed in 2021, 67% of workers believe burnout has worsened since COVID-19. This isn’t surprising as we live in a world where workplace telepressure, the feeling of having to respond immediately, is on the rise. The rise of digital communication has normalised the idea of being constantly being accessible and available. Like a lightbulb, continuously being “on” leads to a feeling of burnout. 

The biggest challenge with working from home is avoiding distractions and staying motivated, the following are strategies that help to avoid the feeling of burnout. 

Set physical boundaries 

Having clear physical boundaries between your personal and professional space helps to encourage a more productive mindset when working from home, as it creates an association with productivity to a particular area. By simply putting on a pair of headphones or closing a door, you can politely notify other members of your household to not disturb you, allowing for complete focus. 

Write lists 

Writing a list at the start of your workday helps prioritise tasks and keep you organised whilst allowing for a sense of accomplishment when you complete a task. It’s important to try and understand when you’re most productive and subsequently dedicate those times to your harder projects. It’s important to schedule time to take a break. One shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a break, as these help you reset and re-focus – it isn’t a crime to integrate wellness into your work life. Balance is key!

The art of saying no 

Know that it is okay to say no. Understanding your time commitments is important when deciding if you can take on an additional task. Don’t feel guilty for saying no if you don’t have the time, as good time management is equally as valuable. People often overload their schedule to avoid the guilt associated with saying no. Despite the disruption to our normal social routines, you shouldn’t replace the additional free time with work. Setting boundaries is important to negate the effects of burnout. Interacting with people outside of work, whether virtual or in person, is vital for subsequent productivity.


It’s important to avoid being ‘always available’ and falling into the trap of never truly finishing for the day. Although it’s inevitable that work related correspondence will occur outside of working hours, it’s important to know that an immediate response usually isn’t expected. Making an effort to define these boundaries is important to avoid prolonged stress associated with work responsibilities. If you struggle to step away at the end of the day, create a makeshift commute by going for a walk to physically signal the end of the day. 

The once cookie-cutter approach to working and life balance has been forever changed due to the affects of the pandemic, making way for far more individualised workdays. With workplace burnout becoming increasingly common, it’s important for employees to be honest about which methods work best for them. Having a conversation about setting appropriate boundaries when working from home shouldn’t be taboo. Telling your boss that you’re struggling isn’t a sign of weakness. A company’s success thrives off their employees’ achievements. Discussing what works best for you is in their best interest, so don’t shy away from the conversation! 

Dr. Frank Chow is the Director and Psychiatrist at 2OP Health, a specialist Organisational and Occupational psychiatric service, specialising in workplace related mental health care. With years of experience, Dr. Chow is passionate about advocating early intervention, education, and rehabilitation for all individuals so they can get back on track with improved clarity, motivation and fulfillment at work.