The world of work continues to evolve and if you are remote working from home, you may not be missing that daily commute but you may be missing something else. With the advent of the internet and a variety of digital productivity tools, an increasing number of businesses are allowing their staff to work remotely. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend and work from home jobs increased. According to Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report, 44 percent of companies surveyed had 100 percent of their workforce working remotely.
What it Means To Work Remotely?
Work remotely means any mode of operation for companies in which an employee does not work at the organization’s primary place of business.
Remote working removes many traditional office boundaries, such as on site location and time constraints. Employees are no longer constrained by the physical limitations imposed by distance or office based; instead, they can choose how to manage their time, proximity to other workers, and ability to collaborate based on their personal preference. This flexibility also allows many companies to hold a more diverse workforce with a wider range of skillsets that address various geographical markets across the world.
However, remote work doesn’t suit all employees, and many individuals find it difficult to juggle home and work life. Many workers find this leads to higher stress levels, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.
Fortunately, there are various techniques you can use to protect your mental health when working from home. Here are seven ways to care for your mental well-being and remain a productive remote employee.
1. Upgrade Your Home Office Workspace
First, it’s important to create a comfortable working environment. Your immediate surroundings have a close relationship to how you feel about yourself and how you approach work. Here are a few ideas:
They replace carbon dioxide with oxygen, improving the quality of the air indoors. Plants can also remove toxins from the air, and research has shown that higher levels of toxins in the air are linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety (2). What’s more, plants help to relieve stress. In one study, employees working in environments with natural elements reported a 15 percent higher level of well-being (3).
Introduce Soothing Colors.
Greens, blues, and lavenders are a good choice because they help to create a calm environment.
Position Your Desk Near a Natural Source of Light Such as a Large Window.
Just 15 mins of exposure to natural light triggers the release of endorphins or “happy hormones”. You can also help light bounce around your workspace by adding a mirror to a nearby wall.
Set Up a Proper Workspace
Working from your kitchen table is not the ideal solution in the long run. It’s important to create a dedicated workspace where you can work distraction-free, and check in with your brain at the end of each day.
Get the Proper Equipment
Get an ergonomic desk chair with adjustable height and a five-point base. This will ensure that your desk and chair are set at the optimum height for you, and that there is no pressure on the back of your legs or any other parts of your body.
Use a screen glare filter which will help prevent eyestrain and keep you more focused during work hours. This is particularly important if you’re not wearing glasses or contacts. And if you workspace is noisy or has other remote employees (hello hubby) then noise canceling headphones are important as well.
2. Create a Regular Routine
Creating a daily schedule and following a routine supports your mental health in a number of ways:
- It reduces the number of decisions you have to make throughout the day.
- It mentally prepares you for what to expect during the day.
- It helps you avoid being distracted by activities not on your schedule.
- It helps you achieve more of your goals.
Consider writing down a routine at the start of each day – either on paper or on a screen – so you have a clear plan in front of you
Here are some tips to help you create a routine:
- Start with the most important task. Don’t waste time by starting with less important tasks first.
- Schedule fixed times for daily activities. For example, 9am – 10am is reserved for writing your blog post for the day or editing your latest podcast episode, and it’s impervious to distractions.
- Create list of tasks for each day and prioritize them according to level of importance.
- Don’t tackle too many things at once; it can overload your brain and lead to fatigue and stress.
- Once you’ve created a solid daily schedule and routine, the next step is to give yourself permission to relax. Relaxation helps reduce stress levels by allowing your mind rest after your working hours are done.
3. Take Regular Breaks from the Screen
You should schedule time in your routine for activities outside of work, whether it’s going for a walk, having lunch, reading, listening to a podcast, phoning a friend, watching TV, or simply relaxing. Make time in the day for activities that lift your spirits and give your mind a break from work-related tasks.
Crucially, try to totally avoid your computer and phone screens; it gives your eyes a rest and helps you avoid social media noise, which leads to the next point…
4. Limit Your Time Spent on Social Media
Social media has many enjoyable benefits, but it can also exacerbate mental health problems. In a 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania, students that limited their time spent on social media to 30 minutes a day showed reduced feelings of loneliness and depression, compared to those that continued to use social media for longer.
If you turn to social media to avoid work, or if social media makes you feel envious or angry, it’s time to cut back on visiting these platforms.
5. Be More Open To a Better Work Life Balance
When working remotely, it’s easy to remain silent if you’re struggling to work efficiently or feeling stressed. However, saying nothing means you’re missing an opportunity to address what could become a more serious mental wellness issue in the future. This is why it’s so important to speak out if you’re finding things hard. Don’t wait to ask for the support you need.
If you start reaching out to colleagues or your remote team, you’ll also start to create a culture of openness within your workplace. Hopefully, this will lead to more empathy and support from everyone you work with.
6. Exercise Regularly And Fit It Into Your Work Schedule
According to the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, substantial mental health gains can be achieved through regular exercise. For individuals that have generalized anxiety, just 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise can significantly lower anxiety levels.
The benefits of regular exercise are clear, but it’s not always easy to include exercise in your schedule. Sometimes, you just have to push yourself to make the effort. So block out time in your schedule for exercise, whether it’s a walk, a bike ride, or something else. Start small if you need to, but just get the ball rolling. Lunch time, break time or whatever works best for you.
7. Make Time to Be Grateful
Finding time each day to acknowledge things you are grateful for can actually improve your mental well-being. It might sound corny, but there’s actually a science behind how gratitude works.
According to Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, the practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and improve sleep quality. In one study, health-care practitioners that kept a gratitude diary for two weeks showed sustained reductions in perceived stress and depression.
Why not introduce the practice of gratitude into your daily schedule? Start each work session by writing down things you are grateful for in your life, however trivial they may seem. Even being able to have a remote job or flexible work is something to be grateful for.
Remote Workers Need to Know How To Avoid Burnout Working From Home
Working from home has many benefits, but it can also be high-pressure and cause burnout if not managed well. Here are some tips on how to avoid burnout:
Work Remotely When Your Energy is High
It’s important to schedule your work around when you’re feeling energetic and motivated. This will help you perform better and avoid burnout. Schedule time for breaks when you’re feeling tired or mentally drained.
Limit Night and Weekend Work
This is a tough one, but it’s important to put a limit on the amount of work that you do at night and on weekends. If you’re burning yourself out with long hours, it can be tempting to sneak in some more time at night. But this can cause a huge amount of stress and exhaustion in the long run. Remember, it’s important to switch off from work when you’re not working!
Set Clear Remote Work Limits
It might take time to adjust your limits for how much work you realistically can do each week and put your organizational skills to work. In the beginning, you may find that you’re setting yourself impossible limits.
Schedule “Me” Time
You should schedule time in your routine for activities outside of work, whether it’s going for a walk, having lunch, reading, listening to a podcast, phoning a friend, watching TV, or simply relaxing. Make time in the day for activities that help you get out of the physical office mindset.
Productivity Tip: Keep Good Communication With Your Remote Team
You need to communicate better with your remote team. You can do this by sharing the workload more evenly. Remember that your team consists of a mix of introverts and extroverts. You shouldn’t focus all the work on one person if they’re an introvert. It’s important to make time for face-to-face meetings too, but try not to overdo it. Don’t have weekly meetings just to have a meeting – only meet if something important needs discussing.
From dealing with your boss, family and friends to simply looking after yourself, there’s a lot that goes into being a remote worker. The tips in this article should help you achieve better work/life balance as a remote worker. Remote working is not ideal for everyone , but if you enjoy the freedom it offers, make the most of it. It’s a great feeling being able to work from home and have more time for yourself, so take advantage of that.
Is Remote Work From Home Leaving You Feeling Stressed?
Here is a quick mindfulness technique to use when you are feeling stressed from work.
A simple breathing exercise can instantly help you feel more relaxed.
Get in a comfortable position, whether lying down or sitting up, and take a few deep breaths.
Listen to your breath as it moves through your body. Feel the air moving through your nostrils into your lungs, then back out. Pay attention to each exhale for five to ten breaths.
Allow yourself to drift off into your own thoughts. You don’t need to think about anything specific, just allow your mind to wander freely.
As your mind wanders, try not to get caught up in any one thought or idea. Simply observe each new thought as it comes and goes without judgement. Your mind will eventually slow down and go to a place of calm.
Once you’ve reached this relaxed state, take your mind back to the activity that was causing stress. Allow yourself to approach it from a calm, objective perspective. You’ll find yourself feeling much less stressed about the task at hand.
This exercise works because many times we will feel stressed from work due to a racing mind and there’s nothing we can do about that. Your mind will race whether you like it or not, but this technique allows you to become more aware of the racing thoughts and bring your focus back on the present moment.
When you feel stressed from work, try practicing this exercise for five minutes at a time.
Does Remote Work Continue After Pandemic?
There is no definite answer as to whether remote work will continue after the pandemic. Some experts believe that the remote work trend will continue even after the pandemic subsides. This is because so many people have become accustomed to working remotely and appreciate the flexibility and freedom it offers. Not to mention savings on commuting and other expenses that add up.
Others believe that the remote work trend will end as companies start to realize that not everyone wants to be working from home. Only time will tell which prediction is correct and many employers will most likely adopt and hybrid model that will balance full time remote work and fully remote options. Many of us are parlaying those side hustles into full time gig’s such as freelancing or transcribing as well.
In these unpredictable times, taking care of your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. Although mental health is now discussed more openly, poor mental health experiences are more common than many people realize. This is why it’s crucial for business leaders and employees to be more open about mental health issues, and develop strategies to address these challenges, allowing employees the room to be well.
Hopefully, the techniques described here will help you become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings, and give you more confidence to address the mental health challenges that many remote workers experience. At the end of day, only you know what is right for you. If you don’t like you current job situation, maybe a new job is in the cards for you.