As the elderly Rose said in the movie Titanic, “It’s been eighty-four years.” At least, that’s what it’s begun to feel like. A year into the pandemic, with many of us continuing to work from home, our mental health has taken its fair share of punches. Between burnout, a lack of childcare, fewer outlets, and what’s begun to feel like endless Zoom meetings and meet-ups, many of us are flat worn-out.
But even though what started as temporary circumstances have begun to feel like the new normal, we can still find ways to make remote work not just tolerable but enjoyable while improving our work from home mental health.
Advice for boosting your mental health while working from home
The stresses of remote work, extended isolation, and social distancing aren’t unique to any one person at any single level within an organization. From the top to the bottom, each of us has encountered a range of new obstacles, and we can all benefit from a bit of advice. Try revamping your work from home mental health with these tips.
Commit to your morning routine.
We’ve all been there. The alarm goes off and with no commute and no physical office to go to, we hear the call. It’s our pajamas, and they’re saying “keep us on, we’re so comfortable.” But while that’s true, letting the “relaxed” you blend with the “working” you isn’t great for your mental health.
Instead, commit to the whole routine; shower, work clothes, makeup and hair, whatever you use to do, maintain that system now, too. You can even fake your old commute! Instead of switching from one chair to another, go out, take a nice walk and enjoy a change of scenery before you settle in for the day.
Mind the nine to five.
The worry that work-from-home employees will work less and goof around more has been proven to be totally unfounded. In fact, the most common complaint from remote employees is that they feel like they’re working all the time. When your office is your kitchen counter or just down the hall from your couch, the line between “on” and “off” can blur into nonexistence. And losing that division can be exhausting.
So, mind your mental health by minding your boundaries. That means no emails during dinner, no “one more thing” while you’re relaxing later on the couch, and no more “I’ll just get a jump on…” when it’s time for bed. When the day is over, make sure you actually leave work behind.
Spruce up your space.
A year in, and the walls may feel like they’re starting to close in. The same view, same small space, same disruptions and complications, and your work-from-home may be looking more like a cage than a retreat. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.
From small touches to bigger fixes, sprucing up your workspace can give you a whole new outlook. First, make sure you have a dedicated space. Be it a corner of the kitchen or an actual home office, stake your claim and make it your own. Next, add some personal touches like a favorite plant, a sun lamp, a framed photo, or even a bit of fresh paint on the wall. And finally, keep it clean. Cut back on the clutter and take pride in your space.
Let’s face it, we’re all stretched a little thin these days. Remember that when times are tough, it’s okay to adjust your expectations. This doesn’t mean letting deadlines slip past or dropping the ball in favor of bingeing some new tv show. Instead, it means practicing patience, compassion, and kindness, especially with yourself.
What your company can do for you
As our working landscape adapts to handle challenges on a global scale, so too must employees, leaders, and companies evolve to not just meet the moment but seize it. And while, yes, that means facilitating logistical changes such as helping people get set up to work from home, it also means caring about employees as people and supporting their work from home mental health. Here’s how:
Keep people covered.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, especially during stressful times. If your company offers benefits that include therapy and counseling, make sure to take advantage of those services when you need them! If your company doesn’t, then leaders should push for change and seek out ways to address their teams’ needs.
From kids doing distance learning to shared workspaces to increased isolation for those living alone, we all have our plates full right now, and a bit of flexibility can go a long way. This is especially important now that studies—including this one conducted jointly by Harvard and NYU—have found that the workday has gotten almost an hour longer since the beginning of the pandemic. People are working longer days with more stressors and fewer outlets, and without a bit of leeway that can lead to burnout, fast.
Help your teams create connections.
For some of us, even our cats are getting tired of our company. Others are craving non-family conversations and gatherings. And all of us could probably use a bit more fun. Thankfully, companies and leaders can help with this. The trick is to get creative. From department-wide trivia challenges to devoted small-talk sessions before or after meetings to quirky conversation prompts like “show and tell,” with a little effort and a bit of initiative, we can all stay connected.
The truth is, work-from-home may be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. And even as we stare down the tunnel at that growing light near the end, we need to make the most of our working—and living—experience now. Taking care of your work from home mental health is both a job for each of us alone and for our organizations as a community. Together, we can make the most of even complicated times.