The pandemic has left a deep-seated mark on all of us, especially so in terms of the sudden and long-term switch from office work to working from home.
What initially seemed like a welcome retreat and opportunity to manage your time on your own terms quickly turned into never-ending work hours and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Although many workers have now returned to their regular office spaces, plenty of people have made a permanent transition to working remotely from their homes. If you are one of them, you might consider taking the following steps to ensure that your mental health stays in check.
Designate a separate work area
Your workspace should preferably be located in a quiet place away from any disturbances or distractions. It should also be separated from areas in your home where you tend to do non-work-related things, such as eating or sleeping.
In any case, even if your workspace has to be in your bedroom, try thinking of ways to make it clearly separated from the rest of the room. For example, your work area would ideally be the only corner of the room where you keep your computer, pens, chargers, paper, and anything else you use for work.
Also remember that, although lounging on your sofa with your laptop in your lap may seem very appealing at times, sitting at a desk or table is a far better and healthier choice for when you are working long stretches. If you don’t have professional work equipment, such as an adjustable chair, use cushions to support your back.
Spend your breaks outside
This is a big one: even if you might not feel like it, getting up from your desk and taking a stroll outside (e.g. during your lunch break) could have an extremely beneficial effect on both your physical and mental wellbeing. Time spent in nature is never wasted when it comes to mental health.
If you don’t have any green spaces around your apartment or house, or if the weather simply doesn’t permit taking a walk outside, you can always make your home greener by filling it with plants or even making a kitchen scrap garden using whatever vegetables you have in your pantry.
Stay in touch with colleagues
One of the biggest downsides of working from home is that it tends to make people feel lonely and isolated, especially if they don’t make a conscious effort to reach out to friends and colleagues.
Human connection is just as important at work as it is at home. Although the pandemic has probably already taught you how to deal with loneliness, it is good to remember that there are plenty of ways to socialize at work even if you are not able to meet your coworker’s face to face as often as you’d like.
Make sure to schedule regular video and voice calls instead of simply emailing your colleagues day in and day out. Additionally, if you struggle with working from home, remember that there is a good chance that some of your colleagues or supervisors might be in the same boat as you.
You can check in on each other by organizing virtual meet-ups and just talking about your well-being and anyways you might be able to help each other.
A good routine matters
Exercise, shower, make coffee, and get ready for the day: having a solid morning routine can go a long way toward bolstering your work-life balance, which in turn can have tremendous benefits for your mental health.
Additionally, establishing a good night-time routine can help to remind you when to log off so you don’t end up taking your work to bed with you; it also ensures that you’re getting enough good quality sleep. Turning off your phone or laptop before bedtime and doing some light reading can also help your brain realise it’s time to unwind.
Whether you are mostly happy with your WFH arrangement or you can’t wait to go back to the office, integrating some of these easy tips into your daily schedule can do wonders for your mental health. The phrase ‘Go outside and touch some grass,’ should indeed be taken literally sometimes.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.