2021-04-22 - 8 MIN READ

6 Ways To Stay Mentally Healthy in the Current ‘Work From Home’ Reality

Telecommuting isn’t a new thing - some may be surprised that this work concept reaches back up to 1973. Then Jack Nilles, a former NASA engineer, wrote a book called “The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff” and proposed such a solution to deal with the energy crisis and resolve issues with transportation. Remote work has been evolving since then and around 2010 it became to be seen as a way to increase employee productivity and reduce company costs.

Staying mentally healthy

Some companies around the world were taking the first steps to introduce a remote-only way of working in their organizations, while others were offering remote work as a benefit or proposing a hybrid model of work where an employee could decide whether or not to be in the office. However, in 2020 the meaning of work from home has been turned upside down and from a benefit, it shifted to the only possible way of working in many industries.

Suddenly, many of us have been not only separated from colleagues but also from company culture, initiatives, comfortable office space, and the work habits that we developed during all of these years. It’s always a good time to build a new work routine, so take a look at 6 ways worth taking to stay mentally healthy in the current 'work from home' reality.

Working from home challenges

The main difference between remote work and work from home in Covid-19 reality is that now we work, rest, and experience entertainment in one place and that might be too much for our mental health.

Even if remote work is the future and brings many positive aspects to our life like: higher productivity, flexible work schedule, access to international projects and communities, lack of need to commute daily, money savings, no dress code; there are many working from home challenges we need to deal with.

Work from home mandates around the world has resulted in 45% of employees reporting attending more meetings during the pandemic than when they were in the office. 40% of employees have reported experiencing mental exhaustion from video calls while working remotely. And 59% of employees report that they felt more cyber secure when they were working in the office compared to at home (source: Forbes).

The most popular problems that employees are facing now are:

  • losing the work-life balance,
  • poor time management,
  • not having access to space where they can work peacefully without being interrupted,
  • lack of social interactions,
  • faster burnout

Solving each of these difficulties is not complicated. However, they require the development of new rules on which we must be consistent and which take time to become our new habits. So what can we do?

Rebuild your work-life balance

What does work-life balance mean? Work-life balance is basically the concept of time management, according to which we need to equally split time between work and private life. It is important mainly because it reduces stress levels and ensures you grow as an individual (not only as an employee or contractor).

It was difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle even before remote work became a reality. Although, going to an office was making it easier for us to have a clear boundary of time, space, and tasks. You can rebuild your work-life balance by setting up a schedule and sticking to a routine. It’s great to have a flexible schedule but it’s easy to fall into the trap of devoting too much time either to work or non-work-related activities.

Organize your day and create time slots when you fully commit yourself to daily work tasks. Don't be too harsh on yourself and include meal times as if you were in the office. Did you use to read on the bus before or after work? Recreate this experience and dedicate some time to read at home or find any other activity that will help you set the boundaries.

Don’t give up on sport activities

The standard meaning of flexible working hours is having a possibility to decide when you start and finish your workday. Some employers extend this benefit to adjusting your working hours to your lifestyle which means working whenever you want during the day as long as you work 8 hours a day and finish your tasks on time.

A flexible work schedule makes it possible to implement sports activities in your life at the time of the day that is most comfortable for you. You don't have to wait all day to get up from your chair and exercise. Another piece of advice is to pick specific days during the week when you work out and follow this schedule.

If you are not a sporty type of a person it makes it easier for you to get used to it and after a while, you just follow your new routine without negotiating with your lazy side. For those who enjoy sports activities, such a schedule helps to find the time during a busy day or week. You can book time in your calendar when you aren’t available for calls or meetings. Especially now, when we spend so much time at home it matters to avoid becoming too sedentary.

Stay connected with people

Solitude can be a good thing but only under one condition - when it’s wanted by you. Otherwise sooner or later it can affect your mental and even physical health. It may be surprising but social isolation’s adverse health consequences range from sleeplessness to reduced immune function. Loneliness is associated with higher anxiety or anger, depression, suicide rates, and linked to a higher risk for heart diseases.

It matters to stay in touch with people because it might have serious consequences for the way you feel. The main tip is to plan for social interaction outside of work and schedule it like every other activity. Normally, we would tell you to meet up with nearby friends or colleagues for lunch, going out for a movie, or taking classes at the gym - but current reality may not allow for such participating in such events.

Instead consider hikes, walks, or other outdoor activities with a friend or two. Another piece of advice is to take part in online events where people gather around a specific topic. There are many groups on platforms like ClubHouse, Facebook, or Meetup where people are open to talk with each other.

Set up daily or weekly goals

When today becomes the same as yesterday and so on, it’s easy to lose track of time and also motivation. There is also the trap of staying constantly busy and getting more done every day. Suddenly you realize that work is the only thing that you do during the day and it’s not good for your mental health either. When you’re busy day after day, time slides by in a blur. Instead, try implementing daily or weekly highlights in your life.

Focusing on activities that fall between long-term goals and short-term tasks is the key to slowing down, bringing satisfaction to your daily life, and helping you make time. Long-term goals are useful for orienting you in the right direction but make it hard to enjoy the time spent working along the way. And tasks are necessary to get things done, but without a focal point, they fly by in a forgettable haze (source: Make time).

Your highlight is not the only thing you will do during the day but it’s the most important one for you. If you do just this one thing out of 10 others you will be able to feel that you accomplished something and day after day there will be more and more small successes. Starting your day by choosing its priority is also a good way to become more present in what happens today. You will start realizing that there are elements that are making each day slightly different and it helps to get out of a routine loop that lowers motivation.

Make sure you like your job

At first, you may think that it sounds a bit naive - indeed, some people claim that work just should bring you money. Another argument against it could be the fact that it might not be a good idea to change a job when the situation for many businesses and their employees is unstable. However, a big part of our days is spent at work. The average person spends around 90K hours at work over a lifetime. It's safe to say your job can make a huge impact on your quality of life.

Don’t get stuck in an unhealthy work environment, instead, look for companies that can help you grow as a professional and understand that you can have ups and downs. There is no point in being frustrated or overstressed - it simply means there is something wrong with the way the company operates.

For example, at Blue House we built a community of IT experts who interact with each other, give advice and organize their own programming events. Blue House also matches projects not only to skills but also to personality traits and interests of software developers and that makes them enjoy what they do for a living. Work doesn't necessarily need to be your passion but we will continue saying that you should not do the job which is making you unhappy.

Summing up

There are many other ways that can help you stay mentally healthy in work from home reality. The truth is that each of the activities you enjoy doing will simply make you feel well. The most important thing is to keep the work-life balance and make small steps that move you forward and help to stay motivated. It can be a challenge to rebuild healthy habits but it’s definitely worth trying - because you are actually fighting to make each day better for yourself.

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