Working from home is no longer a sign of laziness or lack of professionalism. Whether it’s for a sticks-and-bricks company or for yourself, remote working can be fulfilling and provide the flexibility that keeps your work and personal life in balance. One factor that often gets overlooked, however, is keeping your mental health while working from home.
The vast majority of people who have been working remotely want to keep doing so, according to a recent report by Buffer and Angelist. Also, 78 % of the workers surveyed said they would recommend this work arrangement to others.
That doesn’t mean working from home is for everyone or that it’s easy. While remote working can be a refreshing change, it also comes with unique mental health challenges, such as loneliness and stress. The strains can be even more pronounced if a global pandemic is at least part of the reason for working from home.
Remote workers need to take care of their mental health to thrive and enjoy the freedom that this work arrangement allows. To this end, I’ve compiled some practical tips to help you stay on top of your mental well-being while you’re bringing home the bacon . . . at home.
Get Ahead of Loneliness
According to the aforementioned Buffer and Angelist report, 20% of responding remote workers claimed to suffer from loneliness. It’s the most common struggle that teleworkers identify. Then again, loneliness can hit almost anyone at some point.
Being an introvert, I occasionally–and accidentally–slip into hermit mode, which leaves me isolated from people I care about. I soon find that I haven’t talked to my friends or family in ages, and this can leave me feeling alone in the world.
A simple phone call or text to connect can be a good thing. Sharing your fears or frustrations can help, even if it’s just to vent. If you can go out safely–with a mask and social distancing–explore parts of your city or community that are new to you. Even when you need to stay home, binge your favorite show on Hulu or Netflix, prepare a new dish, or download a library app.
Focus On What You CAN Control
Whether or not you’re working from home because of COVID, there are certain aspects of remote work that might seem out of your control. If you’re a freelancer or small business owner, market demand and other forces could affect how much work you’re getting or how much (or little) money you’re bringing in. This can feel precarious and scary.
While the future is uncertain, take stock in the activities over which you do have control. Action is good for your livelihood–if it leads to results. With this in mind, stay on top regular tasks so you can stay in control:
- Make changes to your website, such as updating copy or identifying faulty links.
- Brush up on a new skill. Take an online course or find free content to learn more about something new. Check out the free videos at Location Rebel to learn more about freelancing and working while traveling.
- Keep following up with your professional contacts and connections. Assume it’s business as usual, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
- Get organized. Clean up your digital files, update your contact list, or spot-check posted content for proofreading.
Take Your Work Breaks
You already know that it’s useful to schedule tasks, deadlines, and significant project work. You also should schedule breaks and downtime. Plan time for lunch; set the alarm if you have to. Don’t get so lost in your work that you forget to step away and recharge. There’s always time for a break, even a five-minute walk around the block.
Maintain Routine and Structure
At least 40% of freelancers say that flexibility is one of the best parts of remote work. In extreme cases, however, a lack of structure can be detrimental to your productivity. It can make your life feel less normal and healthy.
The American Psychological Association advises creating a schedule or routine. Doing so can mentally prepare you for the workday and help you prioritize what you need to do. As I said earlier, you should schedule times for tasks, projects, AND your breaks. Don’t worry so much about what makes a perfect schedule. It only needs to be perfect for you.
Break Up the Workday with Physical Activity
Like many remote workers, I’ve been concerned about extra quarantine weight. Nevertheless, staying at home should not keep you from building in episodes of physical activity, such as a short walk outside or doing some strength training using unopened wine bottles as weights.
Avoiding “quarantine butt” should not be the only reason for maintaining your physical activity. If you can get outside, get as close to the outdoors as possible. Being exposed to nature has many psychological benefits, such as reducing stress and uplifting mood.
Take Burnout Seriously
Many freelancers and remote workers often feel pressured to squeeze in work when they can, no matter what time of day. However, when you don’t set specific stop and start times, you can suffer burnout, which happens when, after prolonged stress, you feel mentally and physically exhausted.
Burnout also comes from not advancing or achieving new milestones, which often characterizes freelance work. When you work from home, you might not have access to helpful resources that you would at a traditional workplace, such as an Employee Assistance Program.
There are ways to combat burnout, one of which is creating physical and social boundaries between your work and personal time. For example, you can decide not to check work email after a certain time each day. You also can try to focus on your most meaningful work. On the contrary, putting most of your attention on busy work can make you feel unproductive and rob you of the joy that brought you to remote work in the first place.
Remote work can be a breath of fresh air if you’re craving more freedom and flexibility. Whether or not COVID-19 is the driving force, remote work can negatively affect your mental health. It’s important to stay on top of your psychological well-being, know the potential challenges, and have strategies to restore your peace of mind.
For additional information and resources on maintaining mental health while working remotely, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can also download apps like 7 Cups to can get free emotional support–I’ve used this app myself.
Here’s to your mental health! Let me know how you maintain your mental health, whether or not you work from home.
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