We spend so much of our time at work and for many of us, it’s where we get the most social interaction, as well as just an income. But for the best part of this year, most of us have had to transition to working from home, with very reduced, if any at all, days in an office environment. This new way of working took a lot for us to adjust and get used to, particularly in the way we’ve always known to do things. But with new restrictions confirming that remote working isn’t likely to be forgotten any time soon, managing productivity levels, social isolation, health habits and virtual communication is more important than ever.
Job satisfaction and fulfilment plays a huge role in mental health and wellbeing, which affects everyone in some way or another. Mental health affects how we think, feel and act in certain situations, and how this affects our overall resilience and abilities to cope with challenges. Having good mental health allows us to feel increased motivation, sense of purpose and direction and can actually promote productivity in other areas of our lives. But while remote working has huge upsides, namely increased flexibility and limited commute times, it does also come with its own set of challenges, which can affect overall job satisfaction and wellbeing if not addressed.
Blurred Lines and Overworking
While working from home has many advantages, not needing to commute to and from a physical office can lead to the risk of overworking and increased difficulties switching off from work duties. Our daily commute often creates the opportunity to separate our personal and professional lives and encourages us to put some distance between the two to allow ourselves to fully switch off when away from our desks. These lines can become blurred when working from home and operating under the same roof.
Adopt a routine. One of the main benefits to remote working is the flexibility to work whenever suits you. But it’s important to decide on a set start and finish time so you can still mentally disconnect. Tell colleagues when you’re logging off and actually shut down your computer, sign out of work emails and turn off notifications. Allow yourself to truly stop working for the day.
Designate a desk space. Allow yourself to physically separate from a workstation at the end of a day. If you’re in flat share or limited for space and find that it’s not possible to designate an area, instead section off a part of your bedroom or physically shut your laptop down and put it aside at the end of a workday. Do what you need to in order to still provide a clear distinction between home and work.
Previously we would’ve spoken about scheduling meetings whilst making a morning tea but now, this can result in misinterpreted emails and challenges when working and collaborating on projects together. Without being faced with colleagues, or being present in the office environment, it can sometimes feel like you’re not getting the complete information surrounding an issue, or that you’re missing out in some way, especially from the benefit or experiencing reactions in person.
Ensure communication with colleagues is clear to avoid misinterpreted emails. Clarify points and speak up if you suspect an issue or topic may have been lost in translation. Also incorporate messaging platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype to bridge communication gaps and promote regular interaction.
Remote workers can already feel lonely and isolated without adding the current pandemic and need to distance further. These feelings may be especially strong for those who don’t live with others and require the human social interaction they gained from an office or work environment. The need to work from home has resulted in missing out on those ‘water cooler’ talks, office banter and after work drinks.
Combat isolation periods by arranging informal conversations over MS Teams and Skype. Encourage regular ‘team meetings’ over zoom or a monthly social. Also schedule coffee breaks or grab lunch locally with a friend, during the day, to break up the limited social interaction and prevent the feeling of loneliness.
It’s inevitable while working from home that we will experience distractions from time to time. On one hand, a reduced office environment means that we’re not kept talking about a recent TV series or sharing yet another slice of birthday cake in the kitchen. However, we can still experience an increase in interruptions and distractions, from the pressures of home life, sharing a living environment with others, having limited access to childcare or feeling an increased urge to complete household chores whilst spending more time at home.
Limit distractions and balance out interruptions by explaining to others that it’s important a particular task receives your undivided attention. Create a clear distinction between work and home life by establishing boundaries and making it apparent that during your set work hours, you will be busy. Consider putting a do not disturb sign on the door or finding an activity that young children can do to temporarily occupy themselves whilst you focus on the current task.
There’s no denying that experiencing technology hiccups can result in the loss of valuable time and also make us appear unprofessional, particularly when dealing with clients or participating in a conference call. Working from home means that we don’t always have the luxury of office equipment, fast internet connections or technology that is built for multiple team usage, and hiccups can often result in negative feelings, self-doubt or frustration.
Reduce the negativity and self-doubt that can be caused due to technology disruptions by having a back-up device, or plan, and a means of continuing to work should your main one breaks down. Invest in stable WI-FI or seek out locations such as coffee shops that can temporarily offer this if yours slows down. Also consider mobile hotspot options for potential connectivity issues.
Fluctuating Motivation and Productivity
Working from home, particularly because of the current situation, can lead to overall bad health habits, lack of routine and an overall hindrance to motivation and productivity. Your managers or colleagues aren’t around to overlook tasks or request things with immediate action. Limited routines can also result in overeating, under-eating or a change in habits altogether. And the fear of uncertainty around us can result in bad habits or overwhelm and ill mental health.
Ditch the active wear we all became accustomed to in favour of clothes that will instantly aid confidence, assertiveness and productivity, even for your home office. Doing so will instantly make you feel better about yourself and create a sense of certainty. Schedule regular breaks to stretch and make water or a tea/coffee. Stay active, eat well and find moments throughout the day to pause, become more mindful and feel more in control of tasks and your environment.
Ask for help, even if you previously felt less inclined to do this. Recognise that there is a lot going on right now and it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. Break tasks down and start with what you’re good at when lacking motivation. We might experience days when we are totally at a loss but start with the tasks you enjoy on these days. More often than not just five minutes of an activity is all we need to engage in to find motivation to keep going with it.