Whether you’ve been working from home throughout the pandemic or returned to the office only to be sent home once again, now is the perfect time for a work from home mental health pause.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two full years since the COVID-19 pandemic first collided with our lives. Practically overnight, millions of U.S. employees were forced to rapidly transition to working from home — compared to just 6 percent of the workforce that worked remotely prior to the pandemic.
There was no “game plan”. It suddenly just was, and we had to adjust and adjust and adjust to find our own work plan. All our adjusting left us exhausted, a bit depressed, and mentally drained.
While the number of professionals teleworking continued to fall throughout 2021, the arrival of the omicron variant has thwarted many companies’ return-to-office plans, subsequently sending a substantial number of employees back to their homes.
The Pros and Cons of Working from Home
Let’s investigate the pros and cons of working from home, the hidden/or not so hidden side effects of working from home, the good habits and bad habits that remote workers can develop, and the critical role communication plays in maintaining your mental health while working from home.
There’s a reason why 61 percent of workers are willing to take a pay cut to continue working from home: there are a lot of advantages to remote work.
- No Commute: Not only do you no longer have to commute to an office, you also have more flexibility to organize your time in a way that best suits your work style.
- Fewer Interruptions: Since nobody’s stopping by your desk to say hello, there are also fewer distractions and work can be done more effectively (unless, of course, you’re crammed into a house full of kids!).
- Increased Productivity: In many cases, you’re also able to work when you’re most productive instead of being forced to work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
- Unbalance Priorities: For many, it can be difficult to strike a good work-life balance, as work and home begin blending. For example, you might have a difficult time shutting down work at a certain time when it’s always within reach.
- New Teammates: And, whoever thought you’d be working all day with your spouse or children so close by.
- Video Fatigue: Exhaustion from Zoom or other teleconferencing is real. When we crave human interaction our video cameras provide a poor substitute, plus the pressure of “looking good” can be overwhelming.
And always working from home means you miss out on the perks of being in the office — like free coffee, meals, and mostly in-person interactions with your coworkers. Being the social creatures we are, not having these “simple” things can take a toll on our mental health.
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The Hidden Side Effects of Working from Home
For some people, working from home is the work solution they’ve been seeking, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone.
For starters, it’s not uncommon for folks who work from home to feel profound isolation and loneliness, at least from time to time. Without opportunities to socialize with their coworkers, many remote workers can experience anxiety and depression — which can also lead to brain fog. If you experience any of these things, the best thing you can do for your mental health is to seek out a qualified therapist to help you – yep, that means you too guys!
The good news is that by developing good habits and systems and sticking to them, you can increase the chances you’re able to stay productive and enjoy working from home — whether that’s on a temporary or a permanent basis.
Commit to Setting Good Habits
If you find yourself struggling to keep up your morale when you’re working from home, it might be because you’ve developed habits that are preventing you from supporting your work from home mental health.
If you suspect that might be true, do your best to develop these three habits and stick to them.
- Take breaks on a regular basis
You might think that reaching peak productivity requires you to sit in front of your computer all day long, but you’d be wrong. Believe it or not, research suggests the opposite is true. By taking breaks on a regular basis, you can recharge your batteries and accomplish more every day. Best practices suggest taking 15-minute breaks every 90 minutes.
- Set boundaries between work and home
If you’re the type of person who watches a movie with your work laptop within arms’ reach, your work-life balance is going to leave much to be desired.
To ensure you’re able to enjoy downtime and also give your work the full attention it deserves, set clear boundaries between your work and home life.
For example, you might set specific working hours and commit to shutting down completely at the end of the work day – no checking emails before bed.
If it is possible, since you may not have purchased your home with the intent of having to work from it, you should try to designate a dedicated working space so that it is easier to turn off the lights and shut the door and walk away at the end of your day.
- Develop structure and stick to it
One of the main reasons people struggle to work from home productively is because they lack structure in their day. There’s an easy fix: Develop a routine that works for you and stick to it. For example, you might decide to get up at 7:30 a.m. every day no matter what, go for a light jog, eat breakfast, jump in the shower, and then hit your desk at 9.
There’s no right or wrong routine; find a structure that works for you and take it from there.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
In addition to these habits, it’s also important to maintain open communication with those around you. After all, no one is going to know you’re struggling if they never see you and never hear what’s going through your mind.
With your employer
Have you ever had a conversation with your boss or HR team about how remote working is impacting your mental health? If you’re having a hard time working from home, your employer might not have any idea unless you share the information with them. By being open and honest with your employer, you increase the chances that they’ll provide you the support and resources you need to positively impact your work from home mental health.
With your family
Of course, working from home can also take a toll on your entire family. After all, home life changed for them, too. To make sure everyone is tracking in a good direction, it may be worth carving out some time to conduct a collective family mental health check to make sure everyone’s on the same page and that nobody is struggling in silence.
The Bottom Line
It’s been two years since consistent work from home became a thing. Now, it’s time to make sure that where you are mentally with the situation is a good place — and not just a place.
If you’re struggling to adapt to working from home, you may find that talking through your problems with a therapist makes all the difference in the world.
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