Businesses everywhere are feeling the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). Brick-and-mortar stores are shutting down or severely reducing their hours, and companies are urging or even requiring their staff to work remotely.
Working from home requires a huge adjustment from operating in-office, especially if you and your team haven’t done it before. Parents of school-aged children also face an extra challenge, with school closures mandating at-home instruction.
Working remotely certainly has its advantages, including increased flexibility, ability to connect with others around the world, and reduced commuting time and costs. However, working from home can also negatively impact your mental health.
According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work report, 49% of participants reported that their greatest challenges were wellness-related: difficulty unplugging, social isolation and lack of motivation. Combined with a global public health crisis and uncharted waters for the working world, mental health challenges can certainly arise or be amplified.
Whether you’re new to remote work or have been doing it for years, here are some tips for managing your mental health while working from home.
1. Create an at-home office and schedule.
Setting up a home office space can help you shift gears into “work” mode by physically separating your work and relaxation spaces. This can be as simple as designating a spot at your kitchen table for your laptop and mouse.
If you’re struggling to stay motivated or meet deadlines, creating a schedule for yourself can keep you organized and focused. Allot enough time for your work tasks, but also incorporate breaks and a start/end time to your day. Doing this will limit procrastination as well as the need to be “on” 24-7, both of which can drive up levels of stress and anxiety.
2. Communicate openly with your team.
Both businesses and its employees are facing unprecedented circumstances. Communicate with your team, even more than you think is necessary, on a regular basis. When possible, use phone or video calls – it promotes social connectedness while also making your message more clear (subtle nuances are more easily captured in vocal inflection and facial expressions).
You’ll also want to be transparent about any personal situations that could impact work, such as watching your child while you’re on a conference call. Speaking openly will not only set expectations for your team, but it will also give you some flexibility if you need to shift your hours or skip a meeting.
3. Designate time for self-care and social connection.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Caring for your physical, mental and emotional needs will make you more able to do your job successfully. Get some fresh air and exercise, lean into your hobbies to unwind, and be sure to check in with your emotions regularly.
Working from home during a pandemic inevitably limits in-person interactions, so you may need to make additional efforts to maintain social connection. Schedule phone calls and video chats with your loved ones, reach out to friends and family over text or social media, or attend livestreamed version of public events.
Above all, give yourself and others grace. Remote work is a big adjustment for businesses and its employees, and there may be some growing pains as you and your team adjust. You may be feeling overwhelmed with your new work setup and worried that things will fall through the cracks. We encourage you to take a deep breath and do your best – in this uncharted territory, it’s all we can do.