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Finding Small Moments Of Joy Important To Combat Work From Home Burnout

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Seems like another lifetime, but a year ago, in the early days of the pandemic, people working remotely were actually getting more work done than before. Not so much now - Zoom burnout is real. Claire Miller reports.

CLAIRE MILLER, BYLINE: Kathleen Schmidt (ph) is tired - tired of rotating her workspace between her kitchen table and her couch, tired of carrying on like it's business as usual when it's not, tired of all the emails.

KATHLEEN SCHMIDT: At some point, you just hit a wall. And you mentally feel like you cannot do a single other thing.

C MILLER: Schmidt is a book publicist who describes her prepandemic self as a real taskmaster. But for months now, she's felt completely stuck. Kristy Miller (ph) knows the feeling. Pesky little things keep getting in the way of her work in retirement planning, like when her dogs start barking right as she gets on Zoom.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS BARKING)

KRISTY MILLER: OK. Sorry about the dogs. Someone literally just walked by the house. I'm like, of course.

C MILLER: Or when she bumps a wire under her desk, and her whole computer crashes, or when she has a question, but no one's around to answer it. So like Schmidt, she gets stuck.

K MILLER: I think it's a lot more personal anxiety just not having the connections in the background that I had previously.

C MILLER: Working from home might not be for everyone. UCLA psychiatrist Jena Lee says it's easy to see what makes it so taxing. There are plenty of new annoyances of remote work, like waiting for a colleague to unmute themselves on Zoom. And gone are the little rewards, like seeing those colleagues face to face, grabbing coffee or hearing the elevator ding as we headed home for the night with a sense of closure.

JENA LEE: These are all things that are unconscious stimuli that, you know, are such a big part of what makes our days valuable and what makes us feel just, you know, part of the world, a part of our environment.

C MILLER: We're not going to get that back anytime soon. With nearly 80% of companies planning to keep remote work options beyond the pandemic, a lot of us are going to need that extra boost. So a question to ask ourselves is, what makes our days rewarding? For Angela Douglas (ph), a project manager at FedEx, it's getting out into her garden and chatting with her sister. Those moments give her the energy to be more productive than ever. So I asked her, how'd you crack the code?

ANGELA DOUGLAS: Years ago, my mother told me - she said, why are you still at work? I was like, well, I just got so much to do. And she said, won't it be there tomorrow? And I was like, what? Right? And I, you know, left work, and I was like, it'll all - it will be there tomorrow.

C MILLER: So go ahead and take a break. The work will still be there, but you might be able to find a moment of joy. For NPR News, I'm Claire Miller. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.