Take 5: Managing your energy and time in the world of remote work

Ascend Canada > Blog > Articles > Take 5: Managing your energy and time in the world of remote work

By Ellen Truong

I’ve often thought that there weren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish everything that I planned to do.

Throw in a global pandemic, and life as we previously knew it was flipped upside down.

In the initial stages of the pandemic, I was optimistic about going virtual, about the convenience of not commuting and the extra time that I would have on my hands. However as the months dragged on, the effects of burnout began to creep in. My workdays transformed into a mundane act of checking tasks off a to-do list without any fulfillment or inspiration and I found myself wondering whether I was the only one who felt this way.

But of course I wasn’t alone. Research shows that 80 per cent of people from a variety of industries reported being worn out at the end of a workday. While the rollout of the vaccines give us hope, there is no definitive end in sight with stay-at-home orders continuing to remain in place in several parts of Canada.

While organizing Ascend Canada’s webinar on “Managing your energy versus managing your time”, I realized how remote workers aren’t immune to fatigue and burnout. Hearing Crithica Parthasarathy, Elaine Wong, Craig Flannagan, Melissa Tung and Joan Wong share their stories on what working from home looks like gave me perspective on what many of us are going through.

Here are some of my favourite tips shared by the panelists to help alleviate the stress and exhaustion that comes with remote work:

  1. Accept that our realities have changed

    Everyone’s work-life situations are different and that implies a varied set of challenges each individual has to face. Some of us may be juggling house chores, caring for elderly parents, ensuring our kids are logged into their virtual classes, our work responsibilities while trying to carve out time for ourselves. There won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution to striking harmony in work-life balance, so give yourself permission to experiment and try out different things for your situation.

    “Through adversity comes creativity and innovation.” ~ Crithica Parthasarathy

  2. Variety is the spice of life

    Over the past year, many of us have settled into a routine that makes each passing day indistinguishable from the previous one. Routines can help us with productivity and checking tasks off our to-do list, however, this may be dampening our creativity and causing burnout. Make small changes to add back some novelty to your days (e.g. switch up your work area, your tea or coffee or even a virtual commute).

    “Don’t get stuck in your routine, it may be comforting at first, but after a while, it can get a bit soul-crushing.” ~ Craig Flannagan

  3. Set strict boundaries for yourself

    With many people working from home, productivity has skyrocketed. With your “office” being in the same space that you live in, the distinction between work and personal life has never been more blurred, especially with the perceived extra time from not commuting. No matter how much of a workaholic you are, everyone needs to recharge. Make a point of leaving your “office” to go for a walk, do a workout, cook a nice meal, or even binge that new Netflix show.

    “Everybody should find those one or two things that help you decompress and set boundaries around it. Whether it is once a day or once a week, only you know what works best for you.” ~ Elaine Wong

  4. Practice mindfulness as an antidote for burnout

    Many of us have probably received advice to take rest or time off if we’re feeling burnout; this is a temporary solution as you may not be addressing the core issue. Instead, try some mindfulness practices – reconnect with your sense of purpose, your values and reflect upon the real impact you want to make. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at tapping into these thought patterns rather than drifting to places where you feel anxiety and despair.

    “Reconnect with your purpose – in your values, who are you, who do you want to be, what is the real impact you’re making – and remind yourself of that more often.” ~ Craig Flannagan

  5. Bring back the water cooler

    In our virtual offices, interactions with clients and team members have become intentional and business-only focused as you have to formally book people for a meeting. The spontaneity of striking a conversation with someone in the hallway no longer exists in a virtual office but that doesn’t mean we can’t still make personable connections. Bring back the water cooler by starting client meetings with news catch-ups and “small talk” or schedule walk-and-talks with your team members to rekindle connections and socially refuel.

    “You’re going to get a lot more bees with honey, at the end of the day if you have a personal connection with somebody.” ~ Crithica Parthasarathy

Ellen is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto where she completed her Bachelor of Commerce degree, specializing in Accounting. Ellen has been an active Ascend volunteer since 2018, organizing student-led initiatives through the Ascend UofT Chapter. In 2020, Ellen joined the Ascend Canada Events and Strategy Teams where she continues to support initiatives that advance our mission to ensure to help Pan-Asian talent can achieve its full potential.