By Naomi Atwater
The day when sitting in an office surrounded by coworkers, printers, and lunches has faded, and many of us look forward to starting new jobs through an online work environment. While becoming increasingly common over the past two years, some of us are still transitioning into this environment as recent graduates or starting new positions. Although our commutes are nonexistent and our flexibility grows, starting off working remotely still requires intentionality and effort to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. (Impacts of Working From Home During COVID-19 Pandemic on Physical and Mental Well-Being of Office Workstation Users).
If this is a new routine for you, these things all contribute to improving mental health, balance, and productivity within your new job.
- Scheduling work hours
It’s not surprising that the impacts on mental health are often correlated with the balance in any job, whether you work in your basement or drive into the office every day. However, this can often be emphasized in working from home where your work is so close to your normal life. Some people report that when working from home, they have a hard time not feeling like their supervisor is sitting in their living room with them when they’re done for the day and are trying to relax. Setting clear boundaries around work hours as if you were in the office and not making exceptions keeps your mind clear when you’re done for the day, and you need to prioritize all the other parts of your life. (How to Keep Your Mental Health in Check When You Work From Home).
- Creating social outlets
For many, their career creates an opportunity for socialization throughout the day, whether through brief conversations with coworkers or eating with others on a lunch break. When this aspect of work is taken away, it is crucial to find some way to keep in touch with others on a regular basis. Maybe this means joining a club for a hobby that interests you, setting up weekly coffee and dinner dates with friends, or just putting in the effort to be with others. (Tips for maintaining mental health while working from home | PhillyVoice). Although sometimes this feels like a lot of effort, you’ll be rewarded in the long run for supporting your mental health in this way.
- Connecting and supporting colleagues
As mentioned previously, work is a big part of socialization for many people, and it’s much more difficult to connect with coworkers when you’re not in the office. However, maintaining the extra intentional effort to stay in touch, whether it’s periodically scheduled online meetings, meeting up for in-person meetings, having intentional team-building activities, or having a messaging system to talk throughout the day.
- Setting up a work area
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of working from home includes being sure that the area that you work in is best set up to suit your needs. Hopefully, an area in your home you can work in is separated from the other parts of your home where you rest, eat or spend time with others. (Read more: How To Keep Your Mental Health in Check When You Work From Home). However, if not, there are ways to set boundaries with this too. If you find yourself working from your dining room table, make sure by the end of your workday that you have completely picked up and put away everything you were using during the day. Leaving out computers, papers, or other things you use for work makes it harder to put them down at the end of the day. Close all of your tabs, shut off your computer, and put everything somewhere it would be difficult to bring it out again for the rest of the evening.
- Planning breaks and distractions
It may seem obvious that distraction-less environments are ideal for work. Although this is partially true, it can also be argued that having planned distractions can benefit productivity. (Taking Breaks: When to Start Moving, and When to Stop). Minds are not meant to focus for long periods and can burn out from looking at the same project for too long. Having a planned time where you watch a 2-minute funny video on your phone, walk to the kitchen and make a snack, or have a brief conversation can help your productivity in the long run by providing you the mental capacity to keep going.
- Finding organizational support
Many workplaces offer a lot of support and helpful opportunities to assist their employees that work from home. Make sure you are being supported by your workplace and notice their efforts to make it the best environment from home. Do they offer events or programs to support and grow their employees? If not, are they open to suggestions to improve? Consider these crucial questions when navigating a healthy work-from-home environment. (Workplace Mental Health – Working Remotely During COVID-19).
Editors Note: Naomi Atwater is a regular Smart Women Smart Money contributor.