Whether working at home has been part of your work routine for a while, or the decision to work at home has been brought on because of Covid-19, working remotely brings about a whole host of mental health challenges.
We have all had to make considerable adjustments to our personal and professional lives since Covid-19 took hold.
People are at home a lot more than they used to be, which causes strain in relationships, mental health, and between family members.
However, there are ways to maintain your mental health whilst you work from home.
How can I protect my mental health when working from home?
It might be useful to start with some of the benefits that remote workers stand to gain.
Kayleigh Ziolo, publishing editor at Obelisk explains that while the decision to work from home can be tricky, it also has advantages.
Benefits of working from home
Some of the advantages of working at home include:
- There is no commute to and from the office.
- You get to do home projects which can get done during a break from work or at the end of the day.
- You get to create a work schedule that fits around you – you are your manager.
- You’re in control – when you work from home, there is no need to worry about booking meeting rooms or meeting clashes with colleagues – home life can be challenging but working out of your home office means you get to cut out all the noise that comes from working in the office.
Protecting your mental health
There are plenty of ways for workers to protect their mental health at home.
For example, if you share a house with flatmates, it might be helpful to create a schedule that you all stick to – this might involve things such as:
- Going on a bike ride together during your lunch break.
- Sharing any anxiety, you might be feeling.
- Splitting up household chores – such as doing the washing, cooking, and so forth.
- Maintaining boundaries with the people you live with – this might involve keeping the noise down to a minimum during work hours and regular check-ins with one another to ensure everyone is pulling their weight.
How do you handle stress when working from home?
Byron Pulsifer once said: ”Consistency is one of the biggest factors to accomplishment and success.”
When we think about consistency in the broader term, it means sticking to something rigorously.
Virtually, being consistent and sticking to a daily routine ensures that we stay focused on our personal and professional goals while maintaining a work-life balance.
All this alone helps in the fight to combat stress.
When feeling stressed – it’s essential to make sure that we understand our triggers and how to manage our mental health during the more challenging times.
Since the Coronavirus emerged, there is plenty of research to suggest that most people’s mental health, in many ways, has hit rock bottom.
People have to adjust to things they never thought possible, both at home and in their work life.
Some of the following stress management techniques are useful when feeling stressed at home:
- Meditation – stepping away from the home office to take a few deep breaths can work wonders when feeling stressed out. Meditation also helps to reduce anxiety.
- Call a friend – speaking to a close friend or family member releases natural endorphins and feel-good chemicals in the body. Isolation is no fun but staying connected to those we care about works a treat when feeling high-stress levels.
- Spend a few minutes with a furry friend – animals are great stress relievers – it’s a fact that when stroking a dog or a cat for just fifteen minutes ‘feel-good’ hormones such as serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released. Petting an animal reduces our blood pressure by up to 10% proving that animals are real mood boosters!
How do you keep productivity when working from home?
The internet, mainly social media is awash with advice on being more productive whilst working from home.
Many of us are turning to this much-needed advice more and more, especially during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Employee well being
Research suggests that employees’ mental health and well being has taken a massive hit over the past year. As a result, people are turning to different avenues of self-care.
Fortunately, line managers advocate their employees to take care of themselves when at work and home.
Below are some tips on how to remain productive whilst you work from home:
- Declutter your workspace – this helps to stay focused as it allows for clear thinking and proper decision making.
- Have a dedicated workspace – having a dedicated workspace will enable you to break up your home life and work life.
- Ensure you have comfortable seating – back pain is no fun, particularly when sitting for long hours at home. Therefore, ensuring that you have a safe working environment that is ergonomically friendly is vital.
- Exercise – turn off the lights, hold off work phone calls, and get out of the house for a while! Physical activity of any kind whether it be walking, going for a run or getting some fresh air helps with productivity levels. So make sure you work exercise into your daily routine!
Six ways to maintain your mental health while working from home
Working from home can be a dream for some, and a nightmare for others. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage our mental health while we work remotely.
To avoid letting the isolation and loneliness that comes with being part of the remote workers club get to you – here are some tips to help you get through:
#1. Incorporate analogue breaks into your daily routine
The benefits of having a scheduled work-life balance at home are invaluable. Analogue breaks help us do just that.
Ensuring that you take time away from the screen, to give your eyes, shoulders and back a well-deserved rest is vital.
Analogue breaks do not have to be dull either – play some music or indulge in one of your favourite hobbies.
By mixing up your day, any anxiety and isolation you might be experiencing will eventually slip away.
#2. Make time to connect with friends, family and colleagues
Throughout the Coronavirus outbreak, it appears that while most people will face different struggles, we are all in the same situation in terms of restrictions.
And while it’s lovely that most of us have cut out on the daily commute, the collaboration and connection we once shared with our co-workers have changed significantly.
Therefore people need to remain connected to their family, friends and colleagues for support and help. All this can be done by:
- Scheduling video calls and phone calls with the people closest to you
- Attending online events such as Zoom calls with colleagues, friends and family
- Offering support to those in your community whether that be online or by phone
- Taking part in online training whether it be work-related or a personal topic of interest
- Ensuring that you and your team stay connected throughout the day and offer support and help to one another when needed
#3. Stick to your boundaries
Whilst supporting each other during these challenging times is vital – so is sticking firmly to our boundaries.
It’s never easy having to say ”no” to a work request, it’s even more challenging when having to decline a request from a friend or family member.
However, we must maintain our health first, as the saying goes: ” we cannot pour from an empty cup.”
When combining work and home – there will inevitably be challenges. The trick is navigating the art of saying ”no” by using language in a friendly but firm way.
For example, when having to decline a colleagues request you could say something along the lines of:
”As much as I’d love to support you with this project, I’m going to have to decline as I have a busy workload of my own to get through.
However, if I manage to finish my tasks on time, I’ll be more than happy to help you out. I’ll let you know if that happens.”
#4. Take a walk in nature
Dr Jason Strauss from Harvard Cambridge Health Alliance, explains the importance of our environment and how it can affect our mental health for better or worse.
Strauss says: ”Having something pleasant to focus on like greenery and trees help distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.”
Walking in nature comes with plenty of benefits that positively impact our physical and mental well being.
So, why not organize a hike with the people in your bubble?!
#5. Reduce the amount of news you watch each day
We must stay abreast with any changes to the restriction rules related to the Coronavirus outbreak.
However, watching the news all of the time can do more harm than good, according to health research.
Dana Rose Garfin, Assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine explains that there is a difference between staying informed and spending too much time following every development related to Covid-19.
Crucially, avoiding overexposure to the news is going to be vital for your sanity.
#6. Ensure you separate home and work-life
As mentioned earlier, it’s vital to compartmentalize our home and working lives while we work from home.
Things such as having a home office that you leave at the end of the day help create a work-life balance.
Taking work home with us creates a range of mental health issues such as:
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety and depression
- Being tired of life in general
- Work-life conflicts
- Doing damage to our emotional and physical well being
Therefore, people should strive to create a healthy work-life balance, and in some cases, speak to a mental health professional to get their life back on track.
If you find it a struggle to work from home, then perhaps it’s time to reach out to a specialist at Tikvah Lake Recovery who, through one to one therapy can help you navigate any challenges you might be facing.