While many of the challenges we’ve faced in 2020 have been physically draining, the most difficult to overcome have definitely been psychological. COVID-19 has made employers realise that mental wellbeing, investing in employee psychological health, isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s an essential that needs to be taken seriously.
Work-life balance is the ability to succeed in both your work and personal lives and maintain a calm mental health state at the same time. But now, those who are not actively risking their health by going into a workplace, like essential workers, are trying to seek this balance in a virtual world with little divide between the ‘work’ day and home.
The benefits of our ability to easily connect, despite being separate, can also blur the line between what is work time and what is not. This adds a whole new dimension to these challenges, and when at its worst, you can feel like you are ‘living at work’ rather than ‘working from home’.
The brain is a habit machine. It’s built to learn patterns… if we do the same activity over and over, the circuitry of the brain will change to get better at that activity. The more it happens, the stronger these circuits get. The brain learns from experience. It’s up to us to decide what to teach it. We can let the forces around us shape our brains, or we can choose to train ourselves to be healthy and more balanced.
The idea that we’re all stuck in an unending, unhealthy, routine – unbroken by location or rest – is something all too true for many employees. Remote work has its advantages – and most businesses wouldn’t have survived the current crisis without it – but it can also be extremely detrimental for psychological health if done wrongly.
A recent report found that 82% of employees who work remotely feel ‘burnt out’ – with a further 40% claiming they felt pressured into doing more work than in-office colleagues. After all, when your office is your home, it’s incredibly difficult to get the find that balance of personal and professional time.
Four ways to stay happy and healthy while working from home:
- Create a separate workspace
Even if you don’t have the physical space for separation, you can use cues like a lamp or a well-placed tapestry to make sure you are “going” to work.
- Take regular breaks throughout the day.
Set a timer to have regular breaks to practice awareness and be present. You need to proactively create the opportunities for space throughout the day. You can even try meditation as a pause between work.
- Create real indicators of transition
Some people even add a “commute” to their at home work lives by going for a walk around the block before starting work.
- Define and seek out non-work experiences that bring you joy
It’s easy to get in a routine where you are moving directly from work to sleep and back again when we’re working from home. For this reason, it’s important to cultivate activities that reinforce joy. If it’s 5 pm on a Friday, what non-work activity do you have to look forward to? Plan that now.