Working remotely can take a toll on your mental health, so here are some tips for managing anxiety and isolation when doing your job at home.
For some, making the adjustment from working in the office to working at home has been the hardest part. For others, it’s not the transition – it’s playing the long game that’s been difficult. When the novelty and sense of freedom start wearing off (think “be careful what you wish for”), those of us working from home can start feeling anxious and lonely.
That’s no good. At UpTeam, we know that mental health is key for the success of every team member, and thus every team. This is why we’ve put together some ideas we’ve found useful for anyone who’s wondering about how to boost their mental health, especially when working from home.
Update your expectations
Notice that we didn’t write “manage” your expectations? That’s because “managing” expectations means settling for less – it means coming to terms with additional, and sometimes unforeseen, limitations. When you’re working from home, you want a richer experience, not a “managed” one.
Updating your expectations means aligning your vision with reality, which often means getting to know yourself better. Outdated expectations about your attention span, your motivators, and how much you can get done on a clock can lead to intense bouts of dissatisfaction, self-blame, and eventually depression (yes, this can even happen to you – it’s not smart to pretend otherwise). You’re in a new environment, so you have to get to know how you react to it.
As you start learning more about how you work at home, you can create new rhythms that match your new reality. These help deal with anxiety or loneliness by putting up boundaries around your mental health – if you’re always at home, you need to do more to create a sense of ‘work-time’ and ‘rest-time’, for example. You need to keep an eye on whether there are any signs of impending burnout, and then step on the brakes accordingly. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure (and falling into a rut that can be hard to break out of).
Optimize your social time
While working at home can be freeing, there’s one benefit from the office that’s hard to beat: running into people you know all the time. This means that if you’re new to working remotely, you may need to adjust your habits to make sure you’re still keeping in touch with the outside world in fulfilling ways.
One way to do this is coworking. On one end of the spectrum, this can mean renting a dedicated space in a coworking organization where you can do your tasks as socially or as intensively as you like. On the other end, heading to a cafe with friends, or even inviting other remote workers to your house for a couple of hours, is a cheaper option that gives you more control over who you’re seeing and for how long. Of course, being outside when indoor meeting options are limited will depend on the weather, but don’t play down the chance to get even a little bit of fresh air.
In situations like a pandemic, or when you’re too far from the city to co-work in person, there are other ways to get in more social time. Turning on your camera in meetings, and encouraging other people to do the same, can give a great boost in the middle of the day. So can starting meetings 10-15 minutes early for a bit of chit-chat before getting down to business.
Plan for resilient mental health, every day
Many psychologists compare mental health to a fuel tank: we need to do certain things to make sure that we’re never running entirely empty. An important aspect of self-knowledge is knowing what actions charge you up and learning how to incorporate them into your day.
This can mean discovering little ‘mood boosters’ and placing them through the afternoon – or even through the week if that works better for you. These boosters could be a walk around the park, a quick dip in the pool, a half-hour comedy show after lunch, a visit to the library (maybe with a friend), or a medium-length call to a loved one in the middle of the day.
These little boosters help manage our mood, keep our spirits high and make us more resilient to anxiety. Other things to try could involve starting or ending the day with a fun task, or investing in your workspace as a way to treat yourself from time to time.
The clock might even be your best friend. We’re all used to giving ourselves deadlines for tasks and work deliverables. Make sure that your mental health, which is one of your greatest assets, gets the same sort of timely attention. If you haven’t had a break in a few hours, or a few days, don’t pretend that you don’t need one. Give yourself a dose of mental health time now and you’ll more than earn its value back later.