By Pam Dewey • mental health; working from home; balance • January 28, 2021
Vaccines are starting to roll out, which means an end to the pandemic seems like a tangible possibility. But we know the pandemic is far from over, and we will all need to remain cautious, continue to wear masks and practice social distancing for some time.
That means many of us will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. Here are some ideas to help you balance work and life while working remotely.
Create an actual home office
You may not have a separate room for your work-from-home space. But you should still create a space that doesn’t feel temporary or makeshift. Clear your space of distractions, and make room to spread out. If you’re working at the dining room table, start each day by clearing off the clutter. Here are some other tips to create a work-from-home-space that is good for your body.
Think about sunlight and temperature, too, particularly as we’re now in the heart of a Minnesota winter. If you’re working in the basement, get a space heater or an electric blanket to keep you warm. Sunlight helps improve your mood, so set up near a window, if possible. You might also want to invest in a light therapy box, which exudes light similar to sunlight.
Set your office hours, but allow for flexibility
Set a clear start and end time for your workday. Working from home can blur boundaries, so setting a schedule demarcates an end to your day. It might also help to have an end-of-the-workday ritual like shutting your laptop, putting it away and taking your kids (or dog) for a walk.
If you have kids doing remote learning, you might need a more flexible schedule. You may spend the morning helping them set up and then work later in the evening. You and your partner can also trade days assisting the kids with their schoolwork. Children also might have occasional activities or assignments that require your assistance. Let your boss and your coworkers know you may be unavailable throughout the day, so you can help your kids with online learning. At this point, most people realize working from home comes with a host of complications, and they will understand.
Get children set up with an activity
If you have a meeting where you can’t be interrupted, give your child an activity that lasts the length of the meeting. You could also set a timer for them, so they know exactly how long you need quiet time.
Take a break when you need it
You still deserve breaks when working from home. Maybe you’re stuck on a project or have run out of new ideas for your blog. Taking a break will give you some time to recharge and gain a fresh perspective. Consider going for a walk, doing some breathing exercises or looking out the window for a while. Just don’t spend your entire break scrolling through your phone. Doomscrolling isn’t good for your mental health.
Working from home can lead to long periods of sitting. A standing desk can offer some relief. Getting up and moving around is good for your body and your mental health. If you don’t want to venture outside, take a dance break, try planking or run up and down the stairs a few times. You could do a few minutes on an exercise bike or a treadmill.
Find ways to laugh
The world feels like a dark place some days, so it’s important to seek joy. After work, spend some time playing with your kids or pets. Trade funny memes or videos with one of your friends. Curl up with a good book. Or watch a TV show that makes you laugh out loud, even if you’ve watched it 30 times before. Activities that make you happy help you cope.
Reach out for help
If you feel overwhelmed, overly anxious or depressed, it might be time to talk to a mental health professional. Talking about what you are feeling is incredibly cathartic. A therapist is a neutral third party, so you can say things to him or her you might be uncomfortable saying to a friend or family member. A mental health professional will also have strategies to help you deal with any anxiety or sadness you’re experiencing.
Working from home can be difficult. But setting some boundaries and making time for yourself can help create a healthy work-life balance.