Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
Working From Home Essentials: The Mental Health Edition
Published Nov 16th, 2020 & updated on Dec 7th, 2021
We keep hearing the phrase, “unprecedented times,” over and over… AND OVER AND OVER! But, it’s accurate. Who could’ve predicted that a majority of people would be working and learning remotely in 2020? And did anyone have time to grab their ‘working from home essentials’ kit? Was mental health considered for the kit?
We’re all inside our homes trying to keep as safe as we can so that we don’t have to accidentally contract COVID-19 from one of our friends or colleagues. So, our homes and apartments have now become our offices. If you have pets, I’m sure they’re probably loooooving that you’re home 24/7 (that means they get scritches 24/7), but you might not be loving it as much as they are.
We’re now 7 months into this pandemic, so you’ve probably read every article out there on working from home and how to make the whole thing easier. But we’re not here to add to the mountain of information. Let’s talk about how working from home can affect your mental health instead!
We’re Working In Isolation
For many of us, our places of work are the environments where we have the majority of our social interaction. Workplace colleagues become best friends as the lines of professionalism start to disappear. It can make work SO MUCH FUN because it just feels like you’re hanging out with your friends all day.
Working from home can take this social element away from us. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t really have a choice if we have to work remotely (thanks COVID) and it can really impact our mental health.
If you’re an introvert, this might be your dream come true! But if you loooove being surrounded by people and collaborating, working from home can be more difficult for you to adjust to.
Without going into an office every day, you can start to feel pretty isolated and view work as a lonely experience. This can really begin to affect your mental health, so make sure that you are continuing to connect with people however you can. This can mean Zoom hangouts with friends, backyard fires (six feet apart obviously), or phone calls to catch up with your family.
Feeling connected to others used to take no effort at all! It was super easy to roll your chair over to someone’s desk and have a chat. But now, to avoid feelings of isolation, we have to put in a little extra work to keep our social side satiated (oooh that was some nice alliteration).
So, stay connected! You’ve probably been doing this already, but we’re just here to give you a little reminder that connecting with people really matters and is SO IMPORTANT to maintain your mental health while working from home.
We See Burnout Looming Around The Corner
When you work from home, it can feel like you’re expected to work ALL. THE. TIME. When you aren’t in an office, you don’t have to abide by designated lunch hours or break times because you can take them whenever you feel like.
Taking time off to have lunch in your own home can feel like you’re slacking or dropping the ball. So, lunch breaks become eating lunch at your desk, and the mandatory 15-minute breaks no longer exist.
We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to appear productive and that we can be trusted enough to work without supervision.
This constant state of productivity can lead to excessive stress, and ultimately burnout. What’s burnout, you ask? It’s when you are emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. It’s when you reach that point where you’re so uninterested in your job that you can’t even write a simple follow-up email. You feel like a raisin that’s had all the life sucked out of it. We don’t want this to happen to you. You should be a hydrated grape!
You can avoid burnout by doing a really simple thing. TAKE YOUR DAMN BREAKS! You are not a machine that is created to be on constant alert for 8 or more hours a day. This weariness from all the tasks you try to complete will catch up with you. Take the time to care for yourself, to unwind, to unload all those busy thoughts onto a piece of paper. Go for a walk without your phone, watch that shitty Netflix show, and most importantly, try not to feel guilty about doing it.\
You’re also allowed to take a mental health day if you’re beginning to feel like you need one. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to help yourself relax.
Preserving your mental health is so important! You still need to take care of it even if you’re working at home.
You’re Stressing To “Appear” Busy
When working from home, some people can start to feel a bit guilty. Why? Because you want to prove that you’re doing your job and that you’re doing it well!
Your home is usually a place of respite and relaxation, and combining this sense of calm with work can sometimes exacerbate this feeling of guilt. Imposter syndrome might even start to creep in and make you feel like you have to work relentlessly in order to be worthy of keeping your position.
But take a breath and realize that you’re the only one putting this extra pressure on yourself. You’re doing great work regardless of where you are located. Trust us!
Our Own (Tried + Tested) Tips For You
If you’re reading this and wondering how to look after your mental health while working at home, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Here are some ways that you can make sure you’re looking after your mental wellbeing:
Keep A Consistent (Not Constant) Schedule
Have clearly defined work hours. Yes, you’re working from home, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be working from home literally all the time! Silence your phone after 5:30 pm or turn off notifications. Don’t check your emails after dinner. Your work hours should be for work, and after those hours are up, you can live your life.
Even though you’re living where you work, you still need to maintain a work-life balance.
Establish A Workspace And Personalize It
When you went to work, you probably drove, took transit, or biked to the office. This travel time told your brain and body that you were no longer at your house and that you were headed to work.
Try to create this feeling again by having a dedicated workspace and trick your mind into thinking it’s at the office. If you set up this space and mentally prepare yourself to work, your mind will begin to adjust to “work mode” when you sit down at your desk. If you’re working in your bed, you’re definitelyyyy going to want to take a nap.
Set up a space that is for working and for working only. Make it super inviting if you can! Decorate it however you want because, after all, it’s your office and it’s in your home.
Make Your Self Care A Priority
It can be hard trying to make sure that you’re looking after yourself when you work from home. Rolling out of bed at 8:55 am to get online for 9:00 am can be sooo tempting. Some people might do this and end up forgetting to take care of themselves, even in small ways. It’s easy to put self care aside when you get caught up in work, forget to shower some days, and not take proper breaks throughout the day.
But you HAVE to start taking care of yourself. Even a shower in the morning can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself and about your work. Make sure that you’re still eating well, taking breaks, and being kind to yourself. Listen to your body throughout the day and see what it needs. Do you need to take a break? Do it! How about a walk around the block? Even do a little bit of yoga to stretch things out.
Transitioning to working from home can be a difficult change to get used to, but you have to remember that your wellbeing matters too! Don’t put yourself on the back burner. You can’t stop caring for yourself even if you’re in your own home.
Remember, working can be important, but your mental health matters just as much!