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How to Avoid Burn Out as a Flexible Worker

‘Working 9 to 5’ may have been a mantra for Dolly Parton in the 1980s, but fast forward to 2012 and an increasing number of us are now flexible workers, with considerably more control over our schedules.

By 2015, 1.3 billion people will be working on the move. But when we keep our computers in our pockets, our work in the Cloud, and our teams across different continents and time zones, has the traditional 9 to 5 become a 24-hour workday? And how do we keep ourselves from burning out?

Technology versus culture

Remote connectivity allowed millions of people to work from home – and we talked then about ‘work/life balance’. With mobile devices, we can work outside of the home office too, and we talk now about ‘work/life blur’. Suddenly, our work lives and our personal lives are blurring together – and if you’ve ever checked your email over dinner, you’ll know what I mean!

So, technology is certainly driving performance and productivity, but how do we know when to switch off? And how can we manage expectations, if we’re always reachable? We must define our work culture, ethics and expectations, before technology defines it for us.

Here are some ways that flexible workers can bring some control back into their lives, and keep from burning out.

  1. Replace discipline with ‘awareness’. ‘9 to 5’ always-on focus is for the office, and we can work smarter than that. Learn about your productive times and structure your day around them.
  2. Communicate your ‘available’ and ‘do not disturb’ times to colleagues. Unified communications software like Microsoft Lync allows you to do that pretty easily, or you could change your status in the instant messenger software you and your colleagues use.
  3. Learn when and how to stop working. Don’t let work overtake your life. Develop disconnection techniques, like going for a walk, disabling your work email or changing your clothes.
  4. Use locations to focus on tasks. If you work from home, work in a separate room that you can close the door on. If you need complete quiet, take yourself off to a library, or if you think ambient noise will help your work, find a coffee shop with free wi-fi.
  5. Love your job. Without the social structures that can turn dull jobs into bearable jobs, you’ll soon feel the full weight of work you don’t enjoy. So, make sure you’re doing something that you love, and you won’t mind it creeping into your personal life occasionally.

Break out of the home office and find a laptop-friendly workspace, like a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, on the WorkSnug website.

San Sharma (@WorkSnugSan) is community manager at WorkSnug (@WorkSnug), a mobile app and website that helps users find laptop-friendly workspaces, like coffee shops with wi-fi.

Photo credit: Phonekerchief

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