BY JULIA ASPEN
FEBRUARY 11, 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the globe in early 2020, S&P Global Market Intelligence found almost 80 percent of organizations implemented work-from-home policies. Employees hoping to return to an office soon are likely to be disappointed: more than two-thirds of companies expect expanded work-from-home policies to be in place long-term — or even permanently.
There are certainly many positive aspects to working from home: no commute, more freedom during the workday, and healthy lunches at home instead of endless fast-casual dining. But the impact on mental health can be draining: those who work from home tend to spend more hours working, and work-life balance can quickly erode.
If you’re currently working from home, chances are you will be for a while. Implement the following six practices into your workday to maintain, and even improve, your mental health:
1. Structure your day
Creating structure for the workday is the most basic step to good mental health while working from home. When someone works in an office, they establish a routine: their shower before work, getting dressed, where they stop for coffee, or even the route they drive to the office. Now that your home has become your office, it’s important to establish the same markers. Identify start and end times, and when you’ll take your lunch. Changing outfits after work each day, taking a walk or drive before and after working hours, or even ensuring you shower each morning before starting work can help set clear boundaries for the day, and help you detach and recharge when not working.
2. Define your workspace
Even if you’re working from home, it’s still important to go to the “office” each day. Set up a dedicated space in your home for work and limit your efforts to that space during each day. You’ll be more focused when you’re working and it will be easier to be “home” at the end of business — even in the smallest of apartments.
3. Get physical exercise
A run, walk, or trip to the gym has obvious physical benefits, but daily exercise can also have a significant impact on your mental health. Exercise reduces stress, eases symptoms of depression, and improves your thinking, learning, and judgement. Find a way each day to exercise — all the better if it’s outside in the fresh air.
4. Create social interaction
It’s easy to take for granted the small, daily interactions you have with coworkers — until you don’t have them anymore. The relationships you have with other people increase your sense of belonging, boost happiness, and help you cope with adversity. Friendships that form naturally in the physical workplace may take more effort when working from home. Make sure you invest time in staying connected with friends or coworkers as much as possible to keep yourself in the right space mentally.
5. Limit screen time
Most work-from-home jobs require a lot of time in front of a computer screen. The toll a sedentary lifestyle and extensive screen time takes on your body is more than just physical. Researchers at Harvard have connected extensive screen time with poor sleep, decreases in creativity, and trouble sleeping. Find ways to cut back on your time in front of the computer, especially in the off-hours, if you’re spending all day glued to the screen for work.
Working from home can have many upsides, but ignoring the challenges it creates for mental health can make it difficult to manage. Embracing a work-from-home arrangement as a way to not only be safely productive, but to improve your own mental health, can help you get the most out of each workday.
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