Managing your mental health while you work from home

The coronavirus pandemic has led many of us to begin working from home. How can you make this transition easier for yourself and your family?
Managing your mental health while you work from home

Most organizations have transitioned to have employees working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Working from home can come with its own challenges, but there are some measures that you can take to care for your own emotional wellbeing.

It’s okay to feel fear, shock or confusion

In this situation, it’s normal to experience fear, shock, anger, confusion and frustration. It might be due to:

  • Not knowing what to expect, being unsure of how to adapt to the current situation.

  • The uncertainty around how long the current scenario may last, and what direction it may take.

  • The challenge of having to adapt to working from home—this could include logistical challenges such as internet connectivity and work-related challenges such as reassessment of individual and team goals.

  • Juggling various responsibilities, including housework, eldercare, and childcare, while trying to focus on work.

Adapting to working from home

Unless this is something you have done in the past or have been doing for a while, it can be challenging to make the sudden transition to working from home. Maullika Sharma, director of Global Clinical Infrastructure at Workplace Options suggests some ways in which this transition can be made easier.

Create a sense of routine or ritual around working from home. You could do this by:

  • Having a dedicated workspace. Avoid working from your bed or an easy chair. Work at a table or desk, ensure the space you are working from is well lit and ventilated.

  • Dress in your regular office wear to get into work mode.

  • Follow your work and break timings, just as you would have if you were working in the office.

  • Ensure you have clear boundaries between work and your life at home , so that you’re not spending all your waking hours on work.

  • Keep track of your meeting schedules. It can be easy to let meetings slip while working from home, so schedule alarms or sync your work calendar onto your phone if you need to.

  • Keep track of your professional and organizational goals. 

  • Stay in touch with your colleagues. Check in with them every day, so you can stay connected to them.

Create agreements with your family

  • If more than one person in the family is working from home, consider the possibility of each person having a dedicated workspace where they can work undisturbed. This could apply to children who are studying as well, or who are spending time on different activities like art, reading stories.  

  • Have a family meeting and reach an agreement on how they fit into your work-from-home schedule. You could discuss some, or all of these questions: What are your work-from-home hours? How does your family fit into it? What are your family interaction/activity periods? How can noise levels, from television sets for instance, be managed to allow you to work?  

  • With domestic help being given time off, how can you share the load of house chores? Draw up a timetable if required so it doesn’t interfere with your working hours.  

  • Schedule family activities to stay connected to each other.  

Bear in mind that even though all of us are dealing with uncertainty, some of us may be able to adapt better than others. If you feel like it’s getting too much for you, or if you notice any of these signs, contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) representative immediately. If your organization does not have an EAP service, you can call a helpline, or reach out to a mental health professional near you. 

With inputs from Brunda Amruthraj, consultant clinical psychologist, Zeitgeist, and Maullika Sharma, director of Global Clinical Infrastructure at Workplace Options.

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