5 Ways to Avoid Burnout as a Remote Worker: And Other Advice From a Teacher Turned Proposal Writer

Sponsored by Renaissance Learning

Ellen Valentine. Photo courtesy of Ellen Valentine.

Ellen Valentine. Photo courtesy of Ellen Valentine.

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Fairygodboss
June 12, 2024 at 7:10PM UTC

Ellen Valentine’s most memorable piece of career advice came from a mentor during her first year of teaching. “She told me that using my planning time and getting things done was important, but taking time to connect with the people you work with and build community was equally important,” Valentine tells us. 

And, ever since receiving this advice, Valentine has always made time to connect with colleagues, “whether it’s going out of my way to help them with a challenge at work, planning a team bonding activity, or just asking them about their family,” she explains. 

While forming connections like these may be harder in a remote or hybrid setting, it doesn’t make it any less imperative! In fact, Valentine — who works remotely as a Proposal Writer at Renaissance Learning — lists finding a community as one of her top five ways to avoid burnout in a hybrid or remote role. “Having those strong connections at work helps me avoid burnout because I feel like I have a strong community of support around me,” she shares. As Valentine tells us, it’s important to “establish a sense of community with your coworkers, whether it’s through a team chat, coffee breaks, or even setting up an in-person meeting with other people from your company who live in the area.” As for her other four tips for avoiding WFH burnout, they are:

  • “Have a separate work space from your home life, if possible.

  • Use the PTO you get! It is part of your compensation package and not something you have to earn by overworking yourself and wearing yourself down.

  • Work smarter, not harder! There is no award for spending the most time on a project — if you can think of a way to make your process more efficient, see what you can do to implement it.

  • Engage in webinars and company activities with people who remind you of your ‘why.’”

Here, Valentine tells us more about her career journey, how she’s made a remote role work for her, tips for maintaining work-life balance, what she sees as the future of work, and more! 

Let’s start at the beginning, what did the beginning of your career journey look like?

I decided in third grade that I was going to be a teacher. I worked toward that goal through college and spent an awesome six years in the classroom. But I got to a point where it was no longer serving my stage of life. I needed less time with students and fewer working hours, so I could pour my energy into my own kids after work. 

It took me some time to come to terms with this, but I learned that it’s okay to change your life plans — changing them isn’t failure, it’s honoring your own growth. If you have a big, overarching career goal, great! If not, that’s okay, too. Do a job you like that utilizes your skills, is a position in which you can learn, and works for the season of that life that you’re in.

Now, can you tell us a bit about your current job? What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role, and what’s your day-to-day like?

I have been in my role for just over a year. One thing I love about proposal writing is that each project is a bit different, and the workload ebbs and flows. I may be really busy for three weeks and then have a week or two that is slower where I can catch my breath and work on long-term projects. On a day-to-day basis, I spend time writing new content, revising our content library, engaging in product and field development, and serving on cross-functional groups, such as our Workin’ Moms of Renaissance employee resource group.

As a remote worker, how do you “check out” and focus on your personal life? And how does your company support you in doing this?

I am lucky enough to have a separate home office. Generally, once the clock hits five, I switch my laptop off and don’t use the room for the rest of the day. I don’t get notifications for work emails or chat messages on my phone, so that also helps me check out at night. I am a full-time single mom to two kids under seven, so they take up my attention the rest of the day!

Overall, what are your top three tips for excelling in a hybrid/remote job?

  • Determine your boundaries from the outset and stay firm on them.

  • Get up throughout the day and move a little — if you were in a physical office, you’d need to get up to visit the mail room, refill your water, etc. Be intentional about creating these micro breaks for yourself. It’s good for your body, and it’s good for your mental health, too.

  • Take advantage of opportunities to engage in cross-functional groups. In a traditional workplace, you might meet people from across departments in the lunchroom or while getting mail. Since those smaller opportunities don’t exist in the remote workplace, make sure to jump on the opportunities that do exist whether it’s a product design group or an employee resource/affiliation group.

What are Renaissance Learning’s hybrid/remote work policies? How do these policies positively impact employees?

We have employees across many time zones, so everyone is pretty flexible and tries to be mindful of other people’s varied working hours. For example, though our headquarters is on Central Time, we plan company-wide events in the middle of day to make them as convenient as possible for everyone from the West Coast of the U.S. to our international employees.

Additionally, my manager is sensitive to the fact that we have two single moms on our team. She adjusted our team meeting time to fall between our disparate pick-up times so that neither of us had to miss any of the weekly meetings. This was incredibly accommodating of her and makes me feel valued as not just an employee but as a whole person.

How does Renaissance Learning help support work-life balance?

Our company helps support work-life balance in a wide variety of ways including:

  • Asking managers to be aware of time zone differences and avoiding standing meetings around school pick-up and drop-off times.

  • Providing a wide array of employee resource groups.

  • Providing unlimited vacation time per year for exempt employees, two volunteer days per year, and additional sick time off.

  • Providing a wealth of health benefits, such as the Virgin Pulse app to track healthy habits and earn points (which can be cashed in for gift cards), subscription to Calm, an Employee Resource Program, and more.

  • Including miscarriages and stillbirths under the bereavement policy as the loss of an immediate family member.

Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of work?

The pandemic showed us that productive remote work is possible. I think that, going forward, a remote and/or hybrid work environment will be expected by more employees as a benefit. With most households being dual income these days, the more flexibility we can offer employees to balance work and home life, the more working parents (particularly moms!) we can keep in the workforce.



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