Many of us have the privilege to telecommute (work from home) and while it does come with some perks, it can also take a toll on our mental health. Here’s how to safeguard our mental health while working from home.
Working from home: the pretty and the ugly.
A good majority of us have been given the privilege and opportunity to work from home. For those of us in Singapore, it’s become mandatory for most employees to do so. Working from home does come with a few perks such as being able to wake up an hour later than usual, being able to work in your pyjamas for a whole day (except during online meetings), and not having to fight with the early morning crowd the moment you start your day. Honestly, it sounds like a real treat.
However, as great as working from home seems, research published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that working from home could take a toll on an employee’s mental health. Working in isolation can cause employees to feel left out and lonely. These latent consequences that manifest themselves in anxiety, worry, and loneliness can be damaging to an employee’s mental well-being. Employees working from home may also experience the added stress of having to regularly seem “busy” and “productive”.
If you’re a parent working from home, the additional list of household chores to complete places an additional load of pressure on your shoulders. Mixing a concoction of never-ending to-do lists, finite time, and the need to keep in constant communication with your co-workers can definitely make your head implode and take a mental toll.
Keeping your head leveled and high
When things at home begin to snowball it becomes all too easy to fall under the weight of an avalanche of responsibilities. But you can help yourself to prevent this from happening:
1. Plan and prioritize
With our working hours bleeding into our personal spaces, planning is now more necessary than ever. Grab a notepad and pen at the beginning of every work day and write down your priorities for that day. This is different from having a list of things to do – writing down your priorities for the day helps you visualise what urgently needs your attention that day. Focus on slaying those big dragons first before moving on to other tasks. Your priority list could look something like this:
- Call client about THAT presentation and hash out all the details by 11am
- Cook kids lunch and break time snacks after client call (nobody likes to be hungry)
- Complete that budget sheet today!
After prioritising what needs to be done for the day, the rest of your tasks can fall beneath that:
- E-mail colleague about that presentation deck
- Short meeting with the boss about our business trajectory
- Look over poster design and give feedback
- Do laundry
Remember, it’s all about prioritizing and planning. Focus your head space on what requires your urgent attention first, then get to the rest once you’ve ticked off the more important ones.
2. Stick to your hours
Working from home can undoubtedly blur the lines between business and personal hours. So, it’s important to establish boundaries between your roles as an employee and as a parent/spouse. If you planned to work from 9am to 6pm, work only from 9am to 6pm. No excuses.
But once it’s time for you to clock off, don’t give yourself the excuse of ‘just one more email’ or ‘one more presentation deck’. That way, you condition yourself to be a productive worker during the day time, and give yourself adequate rest to re-charge in the evening to conquer the following day.
3. Keep those devices away when you have the chance to
Working from home necessitates the use of technology, but it’s important to know when to take a break from our devices when we have the chance to. You’ve spent the entire day answering every ‘ping!’ from your phone and opening every e-mail possible. In fact, using your devices excessively can contribute to anxiety. So, when it’s time to call it a day, try to make it a point to put those screens aside and spend some quality time with your family. Switch your mind off work and just focus on the comforts of being at home with your loved ones.
One step at a time.
Telecommuting is a new ball game to many of us so it’s normal to feel overwhelmed given the drastic number of changes we’ve all had to adapt to in such a short period of time. Giving yourself time and space to adjust to these changes is key to maintaining composure. It’s important to first accept that things are different now and to be patient with yourself as you shed off old habits and adopt new ones along the way. We’re all learning how to cope with new changes as they come along, so let’s take it one step at a time and be kind to ourselves.
Please remember to take steps to continuously protect yourselves and your loved ones. Follow the necessary healthcare guidelines pertaining to your country.