Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our lives have changed in so many ways, especially with most employees being asked to work from home. Sure, most people thought that working from home was going to be a breeze, imagining they could get out of bed at 8:30 A.M. and start working in their pajamas on their couch by 9:00 A.M.
However, working from home has turned out to be more of a challenge than most of us expected. Millions of people complain about feeling unusually exhausted, overwhelmed, sluggish, and distracted while working from home.
But with flexible schedules, without the uncomfortable daily commute to work, and with video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting. Why aren’t we nailing this ‘’remote work thing?’’
Why Working from home is taking a toll on you and what to do about it;
It wasn’t your choice
As human beings, we like feeling that we are in control of our choices and life. This is why self-determination and autonomy are critical to our mental health.
A major problem with working from home now is that a significant number of workers around the globe were forced into it to reduce the spreading of COVID-19. Just like that, remote work became the ”New Normal,” and this could very well be ushering a new era of work.
This has left people frustrated because they had absolutely no control over the decision and, at the same time, feeling they weren’t given enough time to reorganize their lives two fit into remote work.
Solution: Take note of the fact that our lives are full of decisions every day. Infuse decision-making situations and take action on them. Whenever possible, communicate your choices to your team, coworkers, or boss.
Beth Darnall, a psychologist and associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, advises people to take a vacation from the news for a day or two to help them feel more in control.
You’re lonely working from home
Isolation is another drawback of remote work. Even if you’re not very fond of your workmates, you will likely find increased loneliness with remote work. Friendly exchanges and conversations at the office water cooler, the coffee bar, and during lunch provided critical points of socialization as you shared and laughed with your colleagues.
Moreover, isolation can negatively impact our health, with studies showing that it is a risk factor for increased mortality and depression. In remote work, there is limited face-to-face interaction, which makes it harder to connect with your colleagues properly.
Solution: Find new ways to create meaningful interactions with colleagues. The best way to stay connected while working from home is to use technology and talk to people through platforms such as IM and Slack. Initiate video calls through platforms such as zoom with your colleagues for collaboration and improved communication.
You are constantly distracted working from home
Human beings have spent years adapting to working at the office where it’s easy to concentrate for hours without any distractions. For those who don’t live alone, spouses, children, roommates, parents, and relatives are obvious distractions, especially if you don’t have a dedicated workstation.
Furthermore, the increased loneliness has pushed people to spend more time on the phone than ever messaging, video calling, and social media.
Solution: Have a dedicated work station and plan out your days, weeks, and have clear personal goals. Set up a work office in an area of the house with the least amount of traffic.
Set a strict to-do list and a calendar to help you stay focused on tasks and remind you what you need to do. It’s also advisable to have a brain dump notepad where you can write any distracting thoughts and go back to work.
New pressure that didn’t exist before
Even though more than 40% of people prefer working from home, most of us did not realize how tough it’s going to be, especially with other family members at home.
When working from home, you are forced to balance between office work and chores. The pandemic has come with increased duties and pressures at home, such as cooking since restaurants are closed or cleaning since we are trying to minimize the use of cleaning services due to the COVID-19 social distancing rules.
Not to mention parents are likely babysitting, coaching school work, and planning entertainment activities for their children. With the increased number of roles we have to play at home, it’s challenging to maintain a healthy work and life balance.
Solution: Stick to your schedule and stay positive. Appreciate your time together with your partner and children. You can even schedule regular dates with them.
Most importantly, make sure you have a work station that everybody respects. Trying to work from the dining table where your children are also doing their homework can be very distracting. You can also set your work station in a separate room and post a sign outside the door to let everyone know you’re working.
Adjusting to life at home takes time. If you have mapped out schedules for your children but instead let them watch a movie, don’t stress about it. Just try again tomorrow.
All that scrolling you are doing online isn’t helping either. Working from home can quickly become a vicious cycle between social isolation and spending more time online checking news websites for the latest updates on Covid-19 and other news.
Regular support emails from your employer to ensure you keep focused and inform you about their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming. There is also an increasing a lot of information from businesses that are trying to survive.
Solution: Customize, filter, and prioritize the information you have access to. Set aside time to update yourself and be clear about your boundaries. With unlimited access to news cycles, advice, and expert opinions available online, it’s easier to filter information and prioritize what you need to learn and when. Resist the urge to follow up on noncritical emails and links.
Life is more intense working from home
Working from home is clearly testing our bodies, thoughts, and how we manage our feelings during these unprecedented times. Working at home is more intense during COVID-19 pandemic partly because of video calls, where we are forced to focus more on conversations.
With online live meetings, presentations, and conferences in becoming the new norm, you may find yourself more exhausted at the end of meetings than you used to.
Picture this; when you’re in a conference room with your colleagues, you can always rely on whispered exchanges to catch you up if you get distracted. This is impossible during a video call, and you will more intently focus on avoiding the awkward moments of having to ask a colleague to repeat themselves.
How we process information in real life is also different from how we handle information over video calls. Video calls require us to stare at our screens continuously. What is the last time you steadily gazed at a colleague, staring at their faces for even a few minutes in the office? Probably never. The constant gaze during a video call is exhausting and uncomfortable.
Ironically it’s easier to get distracted on a video call than it is in a conference room. Incoming emails, reminders, and phone notifications are more distracting at home.
Solution: Express yourself freely and go with the flow during video calls. Avoid becoming too self-conscious or dwelling on yourself. Focus on the other team members and the contribution you are all making to the team.
Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, exercise, relaxing audio files, and diaphragmatic breathing to promote peaceful feelings. Also, give yourself a break. Practice self-compassion and assure yourself that you will eventually adapt fully to working at home, and you will be performing at your peak level in no time.
Less physical activity working from home
The simple fact that you’re no longer moving across offices or from one desk to another may be making you feel exhausted. This is because being confined at home with no major movement is a perfect recipe for monotony and mental exhaustion.
Physical activity, no matter how small, boosts our energy by delivering crucial oxygen and nutrients to your brain and body tissues.
Solution: Schedule small breaks and exercise in between your work from home. Regular breaks and micro exercises will replenish your body and give you bursts of energy to power through the day.
Your routine is thrown off working from home
A significant challenge with working from home is maintaining routines we’ve taken years to establish. Many people report that they feel unable ‘to switch off from work’ while working at home.
This mainly affects people who enjoy their work. They may end up spending too much time working and consequently throwing off their sleep schedules.
The problem with this is that your body takes time to learn new routines and rhythms. Changing your sleep schedule will automatically affect your energy levels, leaving you feeling tired throughout the day.
Solution: Try as much as possible to maintain your routine and if you can’t create a ”new normal” routine. Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t have a regular life schedule for working, sleeping, showering, dressing, eating, doing chores, etc. It will give your body a natural biorhythm, which will keep you grounded, stabilized, and energized.
Working from home is distressing for millions of people around the world, so cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to enjoy the benefits that come with flexibility. Take time to recharge and come up with a new routine.
Remember, the most important thing, however, is to take care of yourself and your mental health. Keep in mind that your new work from home experience has the potential to strengthen you, grow you, and even inspire others.