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How to Maintain Your Mental Health While Working Remote

A woman working on a laptop at a desk with a notebook.

Remote work is changing the workforce structure for both employers and employees. Recent surveys on flexible work policies show that 80% of workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer remote work and that 83% of businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy or are planning to introduce one. 

Remote work is opening up new opportunities for businesses, as the talent pool grows exponentially when telecommunication options are available. Additionally, remote workers have more opportunities to work for companies that share their interests and values instead of companies that are conveniently close. 

Working remotely offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • Flexible work hours;
  • Convenience;
  • No commuting;
  • More work opportunity;
  • And reduced work-related expenses.

However, while there are many benefits to working from home, there are also challenges, including:

  • Employee isolation;
  • An increased risk of distraction;
  • An increased risk of time theft;
  • And an increased risk of mental health issues. 

Mental health is an increasingly important topic in the workplace, as a negative work environment can lead to a variety of mental health problems, which can also lead to poor performance. While many companies support mental health in the workplace, it’s also important to incorporate those initiatives in your own space when working from home. 

Create a Routine

Although working remotely means having flexible work hours, it’s important to create a routine at home to decrease the risk of inefficiency. Creating a routine allows you to mentally prepare for the day’s tasks as well as outline goals to achieve throughout the day. This is because routines eliminate the majority of decisions that a person makes throughout the day, therefore decreasing their stress. Routines have other benefits that affect mental health, including:

  • Starting your day off right;
  • Making informed decisions;
  • Improving sleep;
  • And enjoying more personal time;

Routines are also convenient because they can take many forms, like:

  • Completing daily tasks at the same time;
  • Assigning goals in the morning to complete;
  • And breaking up big tasks into smaller, manageable tasks.

With remote work schedules, these routines can be as detailed or as lax as you would like. For instance, some people find they work better with intense structure, so they schedule times for waking up, getting ready, breaks, food, and so one. Others find that just organizing their work tasks for the day makes them more efficient. While the structure of routines will vary from person to person, establishing one can help you gain control over your day and increase productivity.

Customize Your Home Office

While it may be known that having a designated workspace can help distinguish against work time and personal time, many people don’t realize that customizing an office can lead to higher focus. Organization and customization play a big role in increased focus. 

According to productivity surveys, even small changes in temperature can affect focus. A CareerBuilder survey on productivity shows that 53% of employees are less productive when their work environment is too cold. Additionally, because the average employee spends one-third of their life in an office, creating an engaging workspace is beneficial to improving mental health.

Personalizing your workspace has many other mental health benefits like:

  • Increasing happiness by displaying personal photos or trinkets;
  • Improving wellbeing by filtering out distractions;
  • Giving the worker a sense of control over their environment;
  • And allowing individuality to prosper.

A few ways to customize and organize your home office include:

  • Creating a command center to delegate tasks;
  • Investing in a filing cabinet to keep important documents accessible and out of sight;
  • Filling your office with plants that help improve air quality;
  • Designing your office to your aesthetic;
  • And ensuring your chair and desk are comfortable to sit at;

No matter how you customize your home office, it’s important to make sure that you have the technology and the resources you need to be a productive worker. If you need a better computer or additional monitors, ask your employer if they would be willing to loan you some.  

Take Breaks and Move

It may seem counterintuitive, but taking short breaks throughout the day and making time to get up and move could make you more productive in the long run. Often workers can work past the point of fatigue by trying to meet deadlines. While this might allow you to turn your work in on time, it could seriously diminish the quality of your work. This is because overworked employees can be more vulnerable to job burnout. Recent studies have shown that workers who take lunch breaks are more engaged with their work than people who don’t. 

Small breaks can help boost mental health in a number of ways, including:

  • Helping retain and process information;
  • Allowing you to see the bigger picture in a task;
  • Improving your creative ability;
  • And cultivating healthy habits.

However, it’s important to note that there are right ways and wrong ways to take a break. For instance, psychologists recommend breaks that mentally detach you from your work, which can help manage feelings of anxiety. Shifting focus allows you to reduce work stress and recover fully. Examples of these types of breaks include:

  • Meditation;
  • Physical activity;
  • Playing a game;
  • Helping a colleague;
  • And setting a new goal or thinking about the future.

Keep in Touch With Coworkers

As stated before, workers spend one-third of their life in an office. This also means that they spend one-third of their life around their coworkers. Having a good relationship with coworkers and maintaining communication can help improve your work collaboration as well as combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Isolation can have long-term negative effects on mental health, including:

  • Depression;
  • Poor sleep quality;
  • Impaired executive function;
  • Accelerated cognitive decline;
  • And an increase in unhealthy habits.

Working in an office is a convenient and easy way to see coworkers; by taking a few steps from your desk, you are able to engage in meaningful conversations that can boost morale. Remote work may eliminate the ease of watercooler talk, however, it does not totally remove it. With advancements in technology, coworkers can talk to each other on different messaging platforms, creating a kind of virtual break room. There are many ways to get together virtually with your coworkers, including:

  • Morning coffee breaks;
  • Virtual happy hours;
  • Friendly competitions, like scavenger hunts or fitness contests;
  • Collaborating on tasks;
  • Or adding thoughts and perspective to other people’s discussions.

It’s important to note that these conversations don’t have to be in-depth. They could be about weekend plans, books that are being read, or even new happenings at the company.

Maintain Regular Hours

Even though remote work infers flexible hours, maintaining regular work hours can help set boundaries as well as help people effectively decompress from work. Boundaries in the workplace, whether in-office or remote, are extremely important for mental health. 

Studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for people in the workforce, as well as the increasing demand created by jobs. Additionally, this stress can spill over into personal life, affecting family relationships, and relaxation. Stress can even become a trigger for other health problems. Relaxation is important to master for a healthy work-life balance as it allows people to recharge. There are many ways to relax after work that can be put into practice, like:

Although managing and experiencing stress can vary from person to person, setting boundaries can help decrease it. By setting boundaries, like designated work hours, you are gaining more control over your environment.

Remote work can offer a multitude of benefits, as well as challenges, that affect mental health. Many companies are implementing initiatives that support remote workers, like ensuring they have the necessary equipment to do their job as well as creating inclusive company-wide initiatives. By gaining control over your space and making efforts to be social and active, you can gain the benefits of remote work without sacrificing your mental health.

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