Work from home they said, it’ll be fun they said…

23 Mar Written By Rachelle Roets

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of us to work from home and even though it might seem an ideal situation for many, a work-life balance is vitally important.

While the pre-Covid world was under the impression that life is what it is, suddenly a pandemic hit and the subsequent events, rules and lockdowns forced companies worldwide to change their style of work and let their employees work from home or remotely.

Businesses that are not connected to travel, tourism, and retail (amongst many others) have succeeded in conserving and even exceeding productivity levels but people working from home no longer have the distinct separation between work and personal lives and this comes with implications.

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While the immediate health benefits of avoiding collective work environments are apparent, it is crucial to take into consideration the mental health ramifications that can come with working remotely.

If you are spending most of your time working, your work and your home life might be negatively affected.  Consider the following consequences of poor work-life balance:

  • Fatigue: When you are tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
  • Poor health: Stress can worsen symptoms related to many medical conditions and put you at risk of substance misuse.
  • Lost time with friends and loved ones: If you are working too many hours, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm your relationships.

Mental health globally deteriorated compared with pre-COVID-19 trends and it is important to make sure you do not set yourself up for burnout and try to look after yourself in your home workplace by following some of these useful steps:

  • Setting limits: If you do not set limits, work can leave you with no time for the relationships and activities you enjoy so it is vital that you manage your time and learn to say no to avoid overscheduling yourself.
  • Detach from work: Working from home or frequently using technology to connect to work when you are at home can cause you to feel like you are always on the job and this can lead to chronic stress.
  • Seek guidance from your manager about expectations for when you can disconnect. If you work from home, dress for work, and have a quiet dedicated workspace, if possible. When you are done working each day, detach and transition to home life by changing your outfit, taking a drive or walk, or doing an activity with your kids.
  • Care for yourself by living a healthy lifestyle. It is essential to coping with stress and to achieving work-life balance. Eat well, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep.

Many people may encounter unforeseen mental health implications from working from home; staying aware of this is crucial. Isolation and burnout are two areas of concern, while transitioning from work to home may also pose a challenge when working and living in the same space. All things considered, the significance of a personal and professional balance to people’s wellbeing remains paramount.

Take Frequent Breaks: Employees may feel compelled to work for extended periods and put in long hours to prove their efficiency while working from home – especially with less after-work extracurricular activities.  Taking frequent breaks is not only a great way to pause during the workday but is also crucial to keeping the stress to a minimum. If possible, incorporate exercise breaks and social interaction into your daily work routine; a simple walk around the block to clear your mind or a quick virtual coffee-chat with a colleague or friend are effective ways to disengage your brain for a while.

To alleviate feelings of isolation, some organizations promote ‘virtual coffee breaks’ – It is essential to human wellbeing to maintain a sense of community and connection. We are social creatures by design, and although we may not be able to be with our friends and family in person, we should factor in time for socialization often. Whether this is a virtual catch-up call, or simply hanging around in the “meeting room” for just a while longer for some casual chit-chat.

Routines are helpful to define clear boundaries. Having a set cut-off time allows your brain to ease into your personal life and relax into the evenings and weekends. Simple efforts like turning off email notifications before and after work, as well as ensuring you get enough sleep, can create a greater sense of normal.

A primary issue is the need to sustain relationships with co-workers. This is critical to job performance, as well as emotional and mental wellness. Be proactive in establishing safe social opportunities; as we have already seen, technology has provided countless virtual platforms with which to communicate.

Make sure your tech works for you and not against you. Even though it might take some time initially, getting and setting the right systems and procedures in place, will help you save heaps of time in the long run.

 

The world of work has changed so much in the past year and the change is likely to be permanent in many ways. While people will go back to the office post Covid-19, working from home efficiency and the work life balance that this year has allowed for, has indicated that a hybrid model is likely the route that many companies will follow in establishing their future working practices. Make sure you are well equipped to be part of both worlds!

Rachelle Roets