Remember when work meant leaving home, and when being at home meant the end of work? Now, thousands of us have taken up working from home, where is the separation between the two?
For many of us, the boundaries between work and home life are somewhat blurred. A little email here and a phone call there outside of work hours didn’t seem such a big deal in the beginning, and I am talking back in March, but how are those minor inconveniences now?
The blurring of the lines between work and family time decreases both productivities and authentic engagement. It is for our mental health that we are intentional about our activities and motivation as we continue to work from home.
Breaking the Mould
The daily commute now absent, it can be all too easy to fall into exhausting routines of starting the moment make your morning coffee. Video calls followed by PDFs, phone calls, and paperwork, and don’t forget the endless emails, all without much thought about regular breaks. Pause for a moment and think about how little mental rest you are getting during each day.
Schedule regular breaks between appointments and tasks. Think back to those little breaks you had without realising. The trips to the kitchen for coffee, the walks between meetings, lunch breaks, the five-minute chats with colleagues and the stroll to your car at the start and end of each day.
You can mimic these without the workplace by setting yourself regular screen time-outs, having a regular lunch break, going for a walk, or doing a short non-work related activity. Beyond breaks, we need time to think, to rest our minds and absorb the constant influx of information. When we feel overwhelmed, we tend to put off those trickier tasks on our to-do list because our minds are overloaded, and there simply isn’t any room left to process any more.
Take regular breaks and don’t neglect your thirst, hunger or movement.
Flip the Formula
It safe to say that things will not be the same as they were before the virus, yet we continue to force our new way of being into our old way of being. You may feel continuously exhausted from the amount of energy you are spending trying to do your job the same way you used to. Forcing the old framework into your home setting is not going to work so its time to adapt.
Working 9-5 with your old regular breaks was once the general mode, and it made sense. Children were at school/nursery and everything fitted nicely. Now we are amid national unrest and a worldwide pandemic; work schedules need to fit around your needs and your family.
Flip the formula. You may only have the capacity to work effectively for fifteen minutes before taking a break-the exact opposite of the old formula. The time you spend working may decrease, but the output in that concentrated time can be three times higher than if you were to sit and stare at the screen for two hours.
Time of day plays a key role here as the 9-5 might mean that everyone is up and around leaving you with very little distraction-free time to produce accurate work. Find the right time or times of the day that suits you best. Unless there are strict deadlines, the most important thing is that the job gets completed in a timely manner.
Up the Empathy
At the onset of this pandemic, we were all advised to be kind and to allow ourselves time to adjust. The notion still applies, but more so now we need understanding and empathy when we find ourselves at capacity or see others struggling. With all that 2020 has thrown at us, we should all be proud that for the most part, we are still getting up each morning and capable of functioning both personally and professionally.
So, when you finish your next meeting and don’t accomplish what you aimed to, ask for a little grace. You will not be the only one asking, and others might even be relieved that you did. Empathy and grace go both ways, give others patience as we all try to figure a pathway to sustain productivity while working from home.
It is time to remove the protective shield over your vulnerability, and like many others, ask for the help that is there, join the navigational path and invite those around you too.
Working from home can be really tough, especially if, like most of us, you don’t have the luxury of a home office. By now many of us have ditched the make-shift home office creations of March and have now moved on to at least a table/desk and a chair.
But furniture is only the start. We need to remould our way of working so that we can focus on the task at hand instead of shouting for quiet while staring into the abyss of the glaring screen, hoping divine inspiration to greet us.
It isn’t easy for any of us at the moment, but if you find yourself struggling with your mental health, there is something we can do to help. With lived experience in many areas, including stress, anxiety and depression, working from home, balancing the work-life relationship, and battling those daily struggles, our talking therapists can help you through.