Posted on 30th September 2021 at 23:36
Working from home has been one of the hallmarks of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as restrictions continue to lift, many people have the option to continue to work from home. For some, this is a godsend allowing greater flexibility and reducing stress. For others, it is a less welcome development, especially if they struggled with it during the pandemic restrictions. The benefits to the employer include greater productivity and lower overheads for office space and utilities. The biggest struggle working from home tends to be an inability to create a solid boundary between work time and home time. Traditionally, this happens by default through the process of 'the commute' which creates a natural boundary between work and home. Taking at least thirty minutes and usually more, the commute allows sufficient time to signify that the workplace has been exited and its associated tasks left behind. By the time home is reached, the workplace has well and truly been left behind and the employee can embrace the sanctuary of home. Working from home does not offer this natural, boundary opportunity so the employee must be proactive in creating one. This proved difficult during the pandemic restrictions causing increased amounts of stress and anxiety. It was compounded by the absence of usual wind down activities like sports and the gym. Previously time poor employees had not developed any or sufficient pass times to fill the sudden gap. People found themselves with alot of available time and nothing to fill it. With the resultant boredom, many found themselves logging on to work again and doing more. A win win for the employer, getting extra productivity at no extra cost, but not so much for the employee. Now that the working from home option continues, it is important that employees guard that boundary between work life and home life that now take place in the same building. Here are some suggestions to help:
1. Strike a compromise. Enquire as to whether your employer will fund a remote workstation at an office block close to your home so that you can still benefit from being close to home but without your job invading its space.
2. Ideally, have a dedicated workspace in the home that is not shared with another activity. A separate office space in a garden building or a spare room in the house, allows you to minimise the imposition of work by allowing you a dedicated space that you can close the door on, at the official finish time.
3. If a dedicated, separate, office space is not possible, ensure you hide the laptop and work phone from sight when finished-place in a drawer or case and cover over a desk top. Ideally do the same with paperwork.
4. Ensure your workstation is compliant ergonomically to reduce strain on your body and mind. Support should be available from your employer for this. Ask for what you need.
5. Ensure you finish at the finish time - use an alarm if you have to- and take breaks as you would in the workplace. Take advantage of going outside to avail of fresh air and engage with the sights around you. Engaging the senses helps keep the nervous system calm so see what's around you, hear the sounds, smell the smells, feel the grass under your feet. If you didn't take breaks in the workplace, introduce them now.
6. Avoid eating lunch at your desk. Set time aside and eat in another room or outside. Meet up with a colleague or friend.
7. Create a demarcation activity to replace the commute in separating the work day from home time. This may be having a shower, going for a walk or jog, heading to the gym or visiting someone. When you return to the home, it will be as your home and not as your workplace.
8. Meeting up with colleagues in the workplace is a big loss when working from home. The banter in passing, the exchange of facial expressions, the high fives, the encouragement, the concern, all have a value from a social interaction perspective. Make sure you keep regular social contact with colleagues, friends and family to offset the isolation. Video chats while good, are not the same as being in the physical presence of someone - another lesson we learned from the pandemic lockdowns.
9. Cultivate some hobbies that will attract your attention and prevent boredom, thus minimising the possibility of returning to work tasks. They also offer a creative balance and a healthier, less stressful, lifestyle that may not have been possible before. Read more on the importance of creativity here.
10. Finally, keep in mind that the expectations of others may need some management if you are the one working from home and the others in the household are not. Having a meal ready, having the shopping in or the bins out does not automatically become your responsibility just because you are working from home. If it suits you and does not impinge, fine, but a conversation should take place around it rather than an assumption made.
Whether continuing to work from home or returning to the workplace, enjoy the resumption but remember the body and mind need to re-adapt back, just as it adapted to the lockdowns and restrictions. There may be some increased anxiety despite returning to 'normal' but it will settle in time. Be gentle with yourself.
A reminder of our 'Mind Down' podcast to help with stress and anxiety whether you are working from home or are back in the workplace. If you need support relating to any home or work issues, get in touch here
Tagged as: Anxiety, Boundaries, Coping, COVID-19, Creativity, Healthy mind and body, Lifestyle, Pandemic, psychosocial, Resilience, Selfcare, Stress
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