For most of us, the switch to working remotely as a result of the global pandemic came rapidly in early 2020, with little or no choice in the matter. Morning commutes were replaced by walking to kitchen tables, with many people scrambling to get hold of any office furniture at all, let alone a proper desk setup.
This rapid change came at another cost, too; with workers unused to not seeing their colleagues every day and government rules restricting social contact, working at home became quite isolating for many. This was especially relevant because working from home wasn’t a choice. Unlike many remote workers who choose to work from home, and had therefore considered the mental health implications, a large proportion of the workforce were unprepared, along with their employers.
However, some employees found that after a period of adjustment, they preferred the quiet convenience of working from home, or adapting to a hybrid model. As we move forward, mental health whilst working remotely will need to be considered in order to keep a happy and healthy workforce.
We take a look at how you can take care of your own mental health whilst working from home.
Stick to a schedule
Whilst it can be tempting to stay in bed for an extra half hour now that you don’t have to commute, setting a schedule is beneficial for your mental health and your work-life balance. It allows you to feel in control of your day, both to ensure you feel that you have completed enough work, but also to allow you to schedule your leisure time so that you can switch off. Just because you don’t have to commute home, doesn’t mean that you need to spend this time working.
Make sure to schedule breaks, too. In the office, you might get up to go to the kitchen or bathroom, and chat with several people along the way, or someone might come up to your desk and speak to you. These breaks mean you look away from the screen, but at home these kitchen breaks are likely to be shorter and the catch-up chats happen on instant messenger, resulting in more screen time overall.
Set clear boundaries for work and home
If you’re not the only one working from home, or you have children, it can be difficult to separate your work and home lives. Whilst one of the joys of working from home can be a quick chat with your partner or a cuddle with your children when they come in from school, this can be disruptive when you’re in the middle of something. On the other hand, it can affect your home relationships if you’re checking your work emails in the middle of dinner.
Talk to your partner or housemates and find a system that works for both of you. Perhaps if the door is open, then this can signal that you’re happy for them to come in and chat, and if the door is closed, they know it’s not convenient right now. If you’re working in an open space, choose some other visual cue that you can both use.
Remember to communicate and engage
It can be really easy when working at home to keep messages functional and lose the social side of communication with your colleagues. Whilst it’s good to focus, interaction with others is beneficial both for your mental health and keeping the feeling of team spirit and cohesion.
Why not set a goal to send some colleagues social messages, or to set up an informal call where people can drop in and say hello? Doing so is likely to keep loneliness at bay and team energy up, which is a positive outcome for everyone involved.