The Novelty Of WFH
As someone who worked from home for many years in the days before coronavirus, my friends and colleagues regularly teased me about what they thought my daily routine might be (sitting in my PJ's all day, watching daytime TV or box-sets). As most of us now know, this is far form the truth and the reality if quite different. Working from home can be amazing for the first few weeks but after the novelty wears off it can be quite challenging both mentally and emotionally for many us.
Let's have a little look at why this might be.
Self-control is important to look at. Do we have the ability to suppress intruding thoughts, behaviours, and emotions which are not important or beneficial for achieving a set goal. When we look at this outside of work it can be something as simple as keeping up a training regime for a cycling event you have entered for charity or not eating that packet of crisps because you are on a diet that doesn't allow them.
So, we look at the ability to have self-control and focus in the WFH environment. Whereas self-control can lead to positivity in career success, friendships and/or relationships. We can clearly see that there is a link between frequent acts of self-control that can in turn create a negative impact and strain on our mental health.
Working from home requires significant self-control. When we work from an office, factory, shop - these are places that are created for us to effectively engage in our workday, whereas for many people - our homes most definitely aren't. What you would think would be simple things like changing from F2F meetings to online digital meetings, the different forms of communications, the distractions such as children or those that you live with entering the room whilst 'on a call', dogs barking when a delivery arrives or the postman appears all have an impact on how we can do our task and can all add more stress to our day. The weather outside plays an important factor as well due to the fact it may be bright and sunny outside which when working in the office, we would continue to work away and hope it is still nice when our work day ends but when WFH, for many, we have to keep up our motivation and focus not to stop working due to the ease of just going and sitting outside. Trying to keep up the self-control when WFH and overcoming these demands can be so tiring and can in turn drain mental and emotional energy levels.
In summary, working from home can mean adapting to new technologies, changing forms of communication, resisting distractions from family members, pets, or boring household chores, keeping up motivation when the sun is shining outside. Overcoming these demands and engaging in work requires self-control, which in turn depletes mental energy levels.
If we can keep some form of detachment, it will help us replenish important mental energy and reduce the negativity of self-control. We can do this by taking tea and lunch breaks just as you would in an office, as after all you are still at 'the office' just in different surroundings, you are entitled to the same breaks which allows us to recharge and also it is crucial we are mentally switching off when out of hours. When we were working from the office it was also so much easier to leave after work which created detachment, but this becomes so much harder when we are working from home. We do not have that commute, so we think we have to be online earlier. This can feel hard due to the 'Big Brother is watching us' culture many organisations have created where we feel we have to justify every minute of our day but it requires the removal and absence of ALL work-related thoughts and activities. This is an incredibly important factor to managing our boundaries effectively between working and non-working time and is critical for detachment.
A key starting point is to manage our work time. Remote workers tend to work longer hours and when compared to office workers due to the need to look 'present' but as the NHS highlight, being 'present' is no use to anyone if your mental health is suffering. Putting physical boundaries in place between work and personal life are really helpful, as by doing this you can commit to time where you don't communicate or even think about work.
Some daily tips that will help with mental head-space in the WFH environment are listed below but in no way are these exhaustive:
1. Creating a morning routine that builds you up and prepares you for the work day ahead. This may sound like it's not really needed but it truly helps you mentally prepare for the day ahead and get into the time for going to work mental focus. Simple and hugely beneficial things like getting up when the alarm goes and not 'snoozing', light exercise like stretching or yoga, mindfulness mediation to prepare you for the day and then there is one of the most powerful natural remedies and boosts, take a moment outside in nature. It doesn't always have to be in the wilderness, just being outside or if you can't leave your home, even open a window and allow your senses to absorb the healing sounds, smells and sights of nature. Just one minute totally shutting out any thoughts other than what you are absorbing from nature is massively beneficial.
2. Loneliness is a very common issue for many when working from home permanently, especially if living alone, as this can increase the feeling of isolation which we are seeing further emphasised in this current global Covid-19 situation. Connecting with Friends & Colleagues can make a massive difference to your day and wellbeing. Just taking time out to 'catch up' for 5 to 10 minutes daily or a few time a week for a non-work chat on the phone or a video call to see each other can make a hugely positive difference and also in turn will boost their mental wellbeing.
3. When working from home it is very easy to lose track so set yourself a work day schedule and as far as possible stay aligned to it. By creating a schedule and Setting Boundaries on work from start to finish will help you keep a better work and life balance. Set your start time for the morning and your end time where you will shut down your laptop/computer and stick to it, also ensure you build in your break times including 5-10 min an hour away from the screen if as happens so often, you constantly looking at it. Working from home can also be very difficult due to children, from childcare itself to even just getting some quality time with them, so it may benefit you to work slightly different times of the day than normal office hours. Speak to your manager and see about arranging some more flexible work times to allow you to get the time you need.
4. Break times and Fresh Air are massive boosts to our wellbeing, so ensure you take normal breaks from work. If you can, get up from your chair, get away from your work point and move, go for a short walk or take time outdoors to give yourself some fresh air and exercise to boost your morale and wellbeing.
5. Self Reflection and Care is hugely overlooked yet critical part of our day. Taking time to reflect on how we are coping, functioning and feeling is very important to the wellness of our mental health, so we need to ensure we take time to reflect on this. Take notice of any changes in how you are feeling, or any effects you are noticing on your body, even how you may be reacting to or treating others. Being proactive in this can help take steps to make you feel better before they become very difficult for you. Using a wellness platform like dnomr – Digital Wellness Platform is a hugely beneficial tool to not only maintaining but enhancing your mental health and wellbeing each day.
6. Make 'you time'! When your work day is over, really make it over. Put all work things away and focus on making the rest of your day 'you time', do things that you enjoy, unwind, make special moments with family and friends, read a book, listen to music, listen to podcasts. Whatever it is, make the best of your day until sleep, a positive boost and recharge, to your mental health and overall wellbeing, appreciate and be kind to yourself, as you did brilliantly today again!!!