Burnout from work when you work from home is real!
If you have read any of my other blogs, you will know that I started out working from home as a Virtual Assistant whilst on maternity leave with my second child. It was initially as a way to earn some extra cash to top up my paltry SMP. Over time this has developed into a fabulous flexible way of working. It affords my family the opportunities that would have been closed off if I worked in full time employment.
But I question I am often asked, is ‘how do you fit it all in?’ The short answer is because I want to. But that’s not to say being a Virtual Assistant is easy.
Running your own Virtual Assistant business working from home online is hard work. There have been occasions over the years when blurred lines of work life/home life, multiple clients, multiple deadlines, texts at 10pm and too much time on Facebook have become overbearing. The deployment of coping mechanisms to avoid burnout from work has been essential.
Set working hour expectations with clients
This is a crucial conversation to have at the start of a relationship with any client. Are you going to be rigid with your working hours and be available 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday? Or will there be flexibility within that? Are you working as a Virtual Assistant full time or part time? If part time, are your working days set each week or are they flexible? Are you contactable on your days off? Or will you only respond during set working hours? If you want to shut the door on your Virtual Assistant work for X amount of days a week then you need to be confident to communicate this up front.
Discuss deadlines with clients as well. I was terrible to begin with, working like a beast to get work done within a couple of days to impress a client, only for them to say “wow that was quick, I didn’t need it for two weeks!”.
Confirming expectations and SMART goals prior to any piece of work commencing should ensure respect for boundaries both ways and avoid unnecessary stress.
Set up a work phone number for your Virtual Assistant business
You will often find that clients send emails or texts at random times to offload a task from their brain, but what does that do to your brain?
Picture watching a film or being out for an evening with friends, in the middle of your bedtime routine or even on holiday and you receive a text or email from a client on your phone. Not ideal is it? Your mind, which should be off from work at that time, is flipped into Virtual Assistant mode. Maybe only momentarily if you’re able to control it. Nonetheless, you work hard and deserve time off for your wellbeing, without having reminders of work.
Setting up a business mobile can ensure a clear separation between Virtual Assistant life and home life. As long as your availability is communicated to your clients and it works for them and their business needs, then happy days!
Plan your work days efficiently
Have one day a week where you spend time planning for the incoming week. Taking half an hour will save you time and stress in the long-term, I promise!
Read more: How to be more productive
Let your clients know when your planning day is too, so they can set you anything specific for the week. My clients know I am working from home online on Mondays and Tuesdays and so any requests for specific topics for social media posts ideally need to be sent by a Sunday, which is when I plan.
I am old-fashioned with my planning and love a paper-based approach! I have my notebook where I write down incoming tasks with their deadlines for each client. Then I have my daily planners where I allocate the work, with an estimate of how long each one will take. The key to success here is to be realistic and also plan in breaks and factor in your own admin time too. For example, sending invoices, responding to client queries, planning your own social media, responding to enquiries etc.
I appreciate that paper-based is not the way forward for many people though, but there are plenty of planning apps out there. Asana for example, comes highly recommended and is great for collaborative working.
Avoid triggers that affect your concentration
Pre-pandemic, working from home I found mess to be a huge trigger for me. I mainly work from the corner of the kitchen and couldn’t concentrate with piles of dishes or ironing looking at me! I sort of got used to it during the lockdowns but now life has got back to some sort of normality, I dedicate a bit of time each week to some solid decluttering to stay on top of it!
An alternative approach favoured by some of my friends is to hire a skip between them and some neighbours, and have a massive blitz! A 4 yard skip is a perfect size for a good declutter sesh but if you’re not sure what size to hire, try this super-handy skip size calculator!
Again, pre-pandemic, I would often work at coffee shops to mix things up. A couple of weeks before the first lockdown I completed a trial at a local business centre that offered hot desks for hire. I was so super productive that day with all the distractions of home removed. Even with people chatting around me, I could focus and it felt nice to be amongst other human beings.
It may be that your phone is your distraction and you are frequently checking it. That quick glance at a Whatsapp could easily turn into a journey down a rabbit hole of 10 minutes wasted. Put it in another room and if you need to, check it every hour or whatever interval works for you.
Break up working from home online!
I am very fortunate to live right by the sea and loved the daily walks of lockdown. Getting out of the house and down to the beach for fresh air after lunch every day just seemed to reset everything that had gone down during the morning.
It helped me maintain a healthy weight, be as sane as possible and sleep well. I vowed to myself that they would continue once life returned to normal. No matter how tired you are, put on your trainers or even just get out in the garden instead of lying on the sofa in front of the TV.
It’s also a perfect chance to catch up on a podcast or audiobook to remove yourself that bit further from your work, for a proper break that we all need and deserve. You can find some great self care tips here, some bingeworthy boxsets here and recommended reads here.
Virtual Assistant burnout from work is a thing!
The very nature of the work – flexible and freelance – can often mean that without careful planning you can end up helping out everyone but yourself. With a few subtle adjustments and some self care and me time, you can make a world of difference to your working life and avoid burnout from work. Fall back in love with the reasons you started up as a Virtual Assistant in the first place whilst maintaining your mental health. For more work from home tips and tricks to help with freelancing, visit The Freelancer’s Life