Looking after your mental health when working from home
Ahhh, working from home. Everyone’s dream, right? Well, perhaps not.
Results from a study carried out by Stanford University showed that 60% of employees participating in a nine-month working-from-home experiment opted to return to the office. They cited loneliness and poorer work output as main reasons but there are several drawbacks that can make having your office at home a challenge.
As lockdown measures are eased, many of us will remain working from home, perhaps for the long haul. There are many reasons working from home can be a blessing but it’s crucial we acknowledge the shortcomings to better prepare ourselves and strive for balance. Today’s blog is all about you and how preserving your mental health is both achievable and necessary.
1. Finish at the usual time
This one is so tough to stick to but failing to do so is likely to take an enormous negative toll on your mental health. You’ll never ‘complete’ your job, so don’t try. You can be a dedicated and productive employee during the work day, but then it’s time to shut down your computer and go into ‘home mode’.
For the sake of you and your family, you have to clear your head, readjust and be present during the evenings and weekends. You’ll occasionally need to work a little late, but don’t allow it to become the norm, and don’t allow people to develop the expectation that you’re available 24/7.
2. Make your peace
If you’re working at home, there’s no escape from the 1000s of jobs that need doing around the house and you’ll occasionally suffer from imposter syndrome if you don’t feel the accountability for high output that you would normally feel in the office. If you thrive in a spotless environment or have been deemed a workaholic by people you know, perhaps take a moment and consider the emotional cost that that standard has on you.
If you allow every dirty dish or unanswered e-mail to make you feel lesser, your mental wellbeing will plummet. You don’t have to be perfect, you just need to be productive (check out last week’s blog for more). Being productive sometimes necessitates the pile of ironing staring at you, or prioritising one work task over another.
It’s okay to be okay with that. Be kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up over it.
3. Create boundaries
If your home and your office are the same place, the lines can get really blurred.
Make sure you have a phone number that you only use for calls with colleagues/clients and stick to it. If you’ve got two different ring tones, you dramatically reduce the risk of having an awkward professional faux pas, too!
Make sure you’ve got a dedicated work environment and don’t take work-related equipment into spaces you relax in. Make sure your colleagues know what your schedule is, and create a home environment that will allow you to work undisturbed if you’re not home alone.
4. A rosy outlook
Keeping upbeat isn’t always easy, but it can really impact your outlook and relationships for the better if you endeavour to remain so.
Communicating effectively with your team means you should be succinct where possible, but the less time you have catching up in the office, the more people will struggle to interpret your tone. When working at home, try to seem as chipper as possible. It can feel inauthentic at times, but it’s a case of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. It will feel natural in time, and you’ll find your colleagues much more receptive to you. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a down day though, we all do!
You can also feel that you’re overcommunicating sometimes, but try to suppress that feeling. If you’re working from home, frequent updates on your work situation and personal obligations will help everyone keep their expectations of you reasonable and you’re less likely to become overwhelmed. When you finish an aspect of the project, say so.
5. Be a butterfly
Social isolation is a really big factor in people struggling during remote working. If your company doesn’t already have this in place, suggest they create a chat Microsoft Teams groups where remote employees can talk socially, arrange face-to-face catch-ups and team-building exercises during break times – socially distanced for the time being, of course. If your company is resistant to this, or you work independently, think about how else you might cultivate positive professional relationships.
6. Show up for yourself
Conference calls are a total minefield in work, but try to embrace them. You may have several conference call obligations each week and it’s important to speak up during the meeting so everyone knows you’re on the call.
Communicate ideas and updates where relevant and check in with any colleagues with whom you’ve been working closely. It will go a long way toward making your presence known and will help you feel connected and purposeful.
Working from home can be a blessing, but by admitting to ourselves that sometimes it’s really tough, we make room for improvement. We hope that even just one or two of these tips resonate with you.
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This is a challenging time filled with uncertainty and anxiety but we have the capability, procedures, systems and technology to help.
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