A lot of people have been making the transition to remote work within the past year, especially during these past few weeks. Under better circumstances, remote work seems like a coveted work feature – something that gives you more control over your work and life.
The idea is that you can work from the comfort of your own home or at a place you frequent, control your own schedule, and overall allow for more flexibility. Whether it is because of commute time, work-life balance, or health issues, remote work has great potential to transform the workforce.
However, it is a bit of a double-edged sword.
You have to put safeguards in place to push yourself to stay productive and on task. The appeal of binge-watching the next few episodes of Love Island or Westworld may be strong, but you must strengthen your mind to keep working.
It is especially important that remote workers keep track of their mental health and well-being. Getting work done is obviously important, but so is staying healthy – both mentally and physically. For people in remote positions, it is rather easy to feel lonely and stressed out. Some people may even go days without to talking to another person, if they don’t physically go anywhere for work. According to research, loneliness and isolation can be “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity”.
In addition, our daily interactions are shown to reinforce our sense of well-being and belonging in a community. By working at home, you are not able to build the camaraderie that you would in an office or other shared work-space (1).
Remote work provides the most benefits when people figure out what works best for them and communicate their tasks effectively.
Here are some tips on how to effectively perform as a remote worker while also maintaining your mental health:
1. Set up your work environment.
When you start the workday, it is helpful to set up the space in which you will be working. Get your laptop ready. Grab some pens and paper. If you know that you need a caffeine boost in the morning, make some coffee or tea. Maybe you like to sit on the couch, covered by a blanket. By having these things ready while you are working, you may find it noticeably easier to get your work done.
One thing I would like to stress is make sure you don’t get too comfortable. Sure, it’d be nice to do work in your pajamas in the week, but if you notice that it makes you tired, change it up!
2. Create a schedule for your tasks.
Another good habit to get into when working remotely is to make a schedule of your tasks and set your day up like a regular workday. After you get up in the morning, it could be helpful to take a shower and get dressed in regular work clothes. That way, you are shifting yourself into a work mindset from the beginning. And since you can work from home, go ahead and make that breakfast that you might’ve skipped when you worked in an office.
Once you’ve gotten yourself ready and your work space is set, you can get started on your work.
Decide on what hours you want to set aside to do work, whether it’s the normal 9-5 routine or a variation of that. Figure out what arrangement generally works for you. If you feel more productive during certain time periods, put your toughest work during those periods. Organize the tasks you want to get down, so that you know what your goals are for the day.
3. Track your time.
Another tip is to track your time when you are working. You can do this by using websites or downloading apps to keep in check. This helps keep you on track and makes it easier to know how much you are doing and for how long. Plus, this will help prevent you from overworking.
While you’re working, fight the urge to do other activities at the same time – minimize your distractions. If you are using a laptop for work, do not use it to check Facebook or dog pages at the same time. A good way to stay on task is to break up your workflow into 90-minute increments. In a 90-minute span, you can go from a period of strong focus to a period of fatigue. When you reach a low, take a break to change things up (2).
And, perhaps one of the most important, don’t be afraid to stop working when your workday has ended. As a remote worker, you might feel pressure to work non-traditional hours and overwork yourself since you might be starting and stopping your time more than your coworkers in the office. In addition, employees who aren’t used to remote work might feel like they have to work longer hours in order to prove to their coworkers and boss that they are getting things done. You don’t have to feel that kind of pressure. Be aware of your time and track it well.
4. Take breaks when you can.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks during the day. Give yourself time to rest and refresh, so that you can work effectively. Like was said earlier, consider taking a break every 90 minutes. Or, if you find that period too short, try every 2 or 3 hours. During this time, you can spend time with your children, read a book, or scroll through your Instagram feed.
Exercising is a great activity to do while you’re on break. Even doing a workout for just 30 minutes a day can relieve a significant amount of stress. So, pull out your yoga mat or run through your crunches routine.
5. Eat properly and stay hydrated.
You can’t work at your best if you aren’t also taking care of your body. Therefore, don’t forget to eat properly and stay hydrated!
Make sure you are taking in enough nutrients to have your body functioning and ready to work. Also, keep a water bottle near you – even within arm’s reach – so that you can have a constant reminder to drink water. Drink water consistently throughout the day, rather than gulping it down all at once. Couple it with hydration pills, and you will be able to maintain good energy levels throughout your workday.
6. Mix things up by calling people.
It can get a bit lonely having to work from home. Your social circle might become limited to just your family, or maybe just to yourself if you live alone. A good way to get some social interaction in is to communicate via phone or video calls, instead of emails and chat messages. A call with your coworkers can reinforce your sense of community and belonging with the team.
Just because we are social distancing doesn't mean we have to socially isolate. Feel free to reach out to the people around you, whether it's through Facetime, Zoom, or whatever application you like. You can use technology to connect with others and foster a sense of community.
We at Health By Principle have been working remotely for the past few weeks, and it definitely has been a learning process. Using these tips, it has made things noticeably easier to work productively and push through the day. Try out these tips and let us know how it worked!
1. Staglin, G. (2020). When home becomes the workplace: Mental health and remote work. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2020/03/17/when-home-becomes-the-workplace-mental-health-and-remote-work/#1829b5211760
2. Janechek, J. (2019). How to protect your mental health as a remote employee. Retrieved from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-to-protect-your-mental-health-as-a-remote-employee/
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