The cancellations and closures and calls for Social Distancing continue, the latest speculation is that it could go on for weeks or months. More and more employees are being asked to work from home. Which benefits their physical health and safety greatly in this time; but what about their mental health and focus?
Not everyone is used to working from home. If you never have before there are some pitfalls you can have trouble with and some advice you can use on how to cope with the change.
Some of the simplest challenges you will face are getting started, distraction, inadequate work space, overworking, isolation, communication, and depression. There may be others specific to your own job that you will have to figure out; the best advice there is to ask someone in a similar situation or get instruction from your employer!
For the others we have put together a list to assist you:
Getting going with your day can be an issue when your routine is disrupted. If you find yourself having trouble getting out of bed or sitting down to work, try doing as much of your normal routine as possible – If you normally get out of bed to your alarm, shower, get dressed, and head out the door; then do all of that except instead of heading out the door act like you have skipped your commute entirely.
If, however, you have tried that and find it exhausting then perhaps change it just slightly; such as adding eating breakfast to slow things down, or perhaps skip the work outfit and just put something comfortable on. (Changing out of your sleeping outfit is important for maintained mental health, and also dress accordingly if you’re engaging in video calls.)
It’s very easy to get distracted when you are at home instead of in an office space, kids/family, the dog/cat, chores to be done can all cause you to put off working far longer than you expect. A few tips to handle this are to set yourself up to work in a space that isn’t where those things are, if possible, an impromptu basement office or set up a corner of the bedroom to work in where you can close the door and be left to work could benefit you greatly.
That isn’t always possible however, and if that is the case then you might find it helpful to dedicate a bit of your morning routine to engaging heavily in those things. Spend time over breakfast with the family, play with the pet for 15 minutes, and then tackle a chore for 5 – 10 minutes. Set timers if you tend to lose track of time. You’ll find you have accomplished quite a bit in those short spans if you mono-focus on them, that will leave you free to get to work, or back to work. It’s okay to take breaks!
It’s also important that you do what you need to shut out any ambient distraction. If that means a closed door, or music, or even turning on Arise Brantford at your work station/over headphones then you do what you need to do. Those around you should understand that you are working. Also, stay off social media.
Inadequate Work Space:
While it would be ideal to have a computer set up in a home office behind a closed door for you to do your work, that isn’t always an option. So how can you help yourself with a better work space? If there’s a corner of your room you can set up a card table and a chair you can create a work space for yourself. If not, then you may be down to a lap-desk and your bed.
But where ever you are working from; make it look as professional as you can. That means keeping it clear of household debris (clothes, toys, remote controls, etc.) and set up like your work space should be. If it’s a card table, put a cup with pens/pencils and a notepad on it beside your computer. If it is your bed, make it in the morning, clear it of everything not work related, and place anything you might need to do your job within arms reach.
An easy pitfall to working at home is overdoing it. It’s easy to settle down to your task in your isolated set up and find four or five hours has passed since your last break. Or that you go well passed quitting time. While the bosses may be happy with the amount you are getting done, no one will be happy if you burn yourself out in the first few weeks. Take time to care for yourself.
Set boundaries with yourself about when you are going to work, when you will take your breaks, and when enough is enough. These don’t have to be hourly; they can be task based instead. But ensure that you know when it’s time to step away from work and have that solid separation of work and home life.
Once you have set the schedule for your at home work day – Stick To It! When it’s time for a break, take the break and step away. It’s a good time to do one of those chores you noticed earlier, or play with the pet, or hang out with the kids for a bit. Again, set timers if you need to, and go back to work when it’s time.
If you are used to being in an office it is really easy to fall into the trap of isolation; it might even seem nice at first! But being on your own can turn into a problem if you begin to lose track of tasks, or what others are accomplishing, or what your employer needs from you while you are working at home. This can lead to all kinds of issues at work. The best solution to this is simple: Check in. Get in touch with people you normally would work with to see what is happening.
Then there is the trouble with isolating with those in your home/life. Perhaps when you are at work its not unusual for you to check in with people in your outside life either on the phone or online and if you change that entirely they might become concerned or you may find yourself feeling low. Don’t let this change in your work location disrupt even your at work routines too much. If you normally check in with people outside of work, make sure you do that still. It’s good for them, and for you.
This issue is a subtle one. You might be tempted to do all of your communicating via messaging services or email. After all, it’s standard business practices now. But if you only engage with text it’s going to affect things you don’t expect. That is why you should not only consider picking up the phone, you might even want to try video calling. Communication is done in more than just the words we use, tone of voice, even facial expressions can change the meaning of what we are saying to a significant degree. Be aware of that and use these options when possible.
The hardest hitting issue of a disruption in your life, like having to work at home, is that you might begin to suffer depression. Many will be accustomed to these feelings, but even so it might be a new source. If you have been following the previous tips you might already be working to your own benefit with regard to your mental health. But there is more you can do.
Firstly, if possible, set up your work space with a view of the outside world. Casual glances out a window can make a big difference in your mental state.
Secondly, check in with those you work with who you don’t HAVE to. If you see someone in the hallways but don’t technically engage with them for any of your tasks, consider reaching out to them. Work relationships are a part of our lives as much as any other. Maintaining them could be beneficial to them as well as you.
Thirdly, measure your success in tasks completed, not time. One of the difficulties you might find is that you feel unaccomplished with no one to directly recognize your accomplishments. Keep track of the things you have done, acknowledge to yourself that you are doing something, it can make a difference.
Finaly, don’t be too hard on yourself if you stumble. If you get distracted, if you don’t accomplish your task for the day, if you work too little or too much. Remember this is a new situation and it takes time to adapt. Just do what you can to set yourself up for even greater success the next time.
Take care of yourself, and of those around you. It is important that we follow the recommendations of the health experts in this pandemic. But it is also important that we don’t let the pandemic ruin other aspects of our lives if we can avoid it. God Bless, and wash your hands.