How to Maintain Your Mental Health While Working from Home

We’re all pretty deep into this working from home experience, and no one knows how much longer it will last. There is one thing we do know. The isolation and changes in routine can have a great effect on your mental health.

Even though it’s more about freelancers choosing to work from home vs. working from home during a pandemic, we think this article from We Work Remotely (a platform for finding and listing remote jobs) sums up the problem nicely and provides some practical solutions. Click the link to read the entire article or enjoy this edited version.

___________________________

Working from home can turn normally optimistic, productive workers into tired, unmotivated, irritable toads. So before you hit rock bottom, learn how to spot the signs of declining mental health so you can address your next steps.

What are the Psychological Effects of Working from Home?

Here are the three most commonly reported issues remote workers face:

  • Loneliness and Isolation

When you don’t have to go anywhere to work, you could spend days not talking to anyone. You miss the social aspect of chatting and venting about work and life, and this camaraderie doesn’t translate the same way over Zoom. Being disconnected from your coworkers and the rest of the world may make you feel lonely and isolated. And loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms like random pain.

  • Anxiety and Stress

When you work in the same place you sleep, the boundary between work and home life blurs. You may feel pressure to be on when you should be off, but without time to disconnect and unplug, you risk burning out.

  • Depression

The anxiety, stress and loneliness of working from home can lead to depression or, if you’re already depressed, make it worse. Depression isn’t just feeling down; the Mayo Clinic says symptoms of depression include:

    • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration (even over small matters)
    • Loss of interest or happiness in activities such as sex or hobbies
    • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleeping too much
    • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
    • Increased cravings for food
    • Anxiety, agitation and restlessness
    • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
    • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
    • Wanting to stay at home rather than going out to socialize or do new activities

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health When You Work From Home

The good news is your mental health doesn’t have to suffer when you work from home. First things first: it’s okay not to be okay. Honor exactly where you are, wherever that may be. Second, know it’s in your power to enjoy a happy brain. Third, try these five simple adjustments:

#1. Create A Routine and Stick to the Schedule

Over 40% of people say their flexible schedule is the best part of working remotely. But it’s how you organize those hours in your day that makes all the difference. Do you have a daily schedule or set routine you follow? When you organize your tasks and outline goals, you mentally prepare yourself for what to expect during the day and it’s easier to work towards achieving the goals you set out, rather than vaguely meandering towards them.

It’s important to schedule analog breaks, too. Set aside time to escape all forms of digital screens; give your eyes, neck, shoulders and back a much-needed rest! And don’t forget to put a little time in that schedule for fun activities – hobbies, self-care and anything else that makes you happy. All work and no play stresses all remote workers out.

#2. Upgrade Your Home Office

One survey shows 84% of remote workers get their business done from home. But do you actually like working in your home office? If you don’t have a dedicated workspace, make that priority number one. Bonus points if you have an office with a door you can close to mentally and physically separate work and home life.

Next, outfit your home office like you want to be the next Twitch star. Whether you buy new or from Craig’s list, get yourself a good, wide desk; a comfortable, ergonomic chair; and a good sound system – without workers to annoy, you’re free to blast some Spotify and get yourself into the zone.

#3. Get Up and Move!

While you’re scheduling, don’t forget to schedule active time to get your heart pumping. Go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or do yoga, practice a hip-hop dance video on YouTube – whatever floats your boat. Exercising 20 to 30 minutes daily can significantly lower anxiety levels. You’ll also boost endorphins and serotonin to flood your brain with happiness.

#4. Leave Your House for the Wonder of Nature

A little time in nature can help with anxiety, stress and depression. Studies show outdoor walks may even help lower blood pressure and stress hormones. Dr. Jason Strauss from Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance says, “Having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery helps distract your mind from negative thinking, so your thoughts become less filled with worry.” You’re not going to argue with Dr. Strauss, now, are you?

#5. Make Time for Your Favorite People

Yes, we know; with social distancing, hanging out with friends, family and co-workers is tricky. But when you’re feeling down, support from those who lift you up may be as effective as some other forms of therapy. So carve out time each week to spend with your core favorite people – whether through Zoom, text or phone calls.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll protect your mental health from the loneliness, anxiety and depression many people have to deal with while working from home. If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, however, reach out to someone you trust, speak to your doctor or find a mental health professional.

Remember, although you might be stuck at home by yourself, you’re not alone.

About Espyr

Espyr has been helping employees achieve and maintain good health – so they can perform their best – for 30 years.  Clients in the most challenging occupations rely on Espyr’s industry leading coaching, counseling and mental health advocacy  programs  to maintain employee health and well-being.  For more information contact Jeffrey Joo at 888-570-3479 or jjoo@espyr.com.

Making Work From Home Work For You

These are extraordinary times.In addition to the health concerns of Covid-19,  the virus has brought on lifestyle changes that we’ve never dreamed could occur.One of those unexpected lifestyle changes may be working remotely, which in virtually every case now means working from home.

As someone who has worked from a home office for nearly 8 years, I found Kim Lyons article, How to Work From Home, to be remarkably accurate and informative.While there is no one size fits all when it comes to working remotely, Ms. Lyons offers several time tested recommendations that you should be considering if working remotely is in your future.

Have a separate workspace

There is something psychological about having a dedicated workspace.When you’re in it, your mind sends you a signal that says, “I’m ready to work.”So, it’s entirely fitting that establishing your workspace is where Lyons starts.“A separate workspace doesn’t have to be a dedicated office with a door that closes (which is often not an option in smaller living spaces). It should be an area that mentally prepares you for work mode, whether it’s a separate room, a small desk set up in a corner of the living room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table. Ideally, it would be a place you don’t go to relax, like your bedroom or your sofa, and a place that other members of your household know is designated for work.

If you find you’re most productive with a laptop on the sofa, then by all means, set up shop there. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what area of your home is most conducive to getting work done.”

Woman working at home with dogs at her feet

Establish a designated workspace.

Establish a routine, including non-work hours

Lyons was spot on when she remarks, “One of the hardest things to adapt to when you start working from home is the lack of a structured start and stop time for your day.With devices that allow bosses and clients to reach us constantly, you can end up working 24/7. Try to start work around the same time every day if you can, and schedule breaks (including meals) around the same time if possible. I would also advise not eating in your work area.

Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time once a day, to get coffee or walk the dog, so you don’t go too stir crazy.”

Many people find the lack of socialization to be one of the more challenging changes when they’re no longer working in an office or shop with colleagues around them.“Working remotely can feel isolating at times, so as part of your routine, try to interact with your co-workers regularly. Chatting over messaging apps like Slack (even just saying “Hello!” when you sign on in the morning) and holding meetings over Zoom or another video app are two quick and easy ways to stay in the loop. However you connect, don’t let email be the only way you interact with colleagues,” say’s Lyons.

“Finally, try to end work at the same time every day. Obviously, there will be times when a late deadline or project needs after-hours attention. But in most situations, a 10PM work email can wait until the following morning for a response.”

Dress the part

One of the biggest selling points of working from home is that you can wear what you want.My office-bound friends often ask me what time I get out of my pajamas and whether I actually ever get “fully dressed.” Lyons suggests, “ To keep a sense of routine, try to get dressed and do it around the same time every day. This might sound a little odd, but in addition to jeans and a comfortable shirt, wearing shoes (instead of slippers or just socks) helps keep that sense of work vs. relaxation. I’m not talking about the most expensive shoes in your closet; sneakers, flip flops, or other comfortable footwear are just fine.”

Know your body

Lyons describes how she “splurged on a good desk chair when I first started working from home, and you may find that’s a worthwhile expense; it’s hard to work if your back is bothering you or you’re not comfortable. Definitely make time to get up and walk away from your desk at regular intervals to stretch your legs.”I too found that a good comfortable chair can make a huge difference.

I also found that I needed to set the alarm on my smartphone to make sure I took a break every 45 minutes or so of working.  Setting my alarm served two purposes.First, I found that establishing 45 minute periods of focused work enabled me to be incredibly productive.Second, if I didn’t set the alarm I found myself working non-stop for hours at a time without ever leaving my chair.  Sitting that long is not healthy.You need to get up and walk around for your physical health, as well as your mental health.Unless you include some “walking around time” in your day, working from will be more sedentary than you’re used to.

Lyons also reminds us to make sure your work area is well-lit so you don’t strain your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from your screen and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

No kids

Many of us may have little ones thinking that mommy or daddy is home to play with us.  That may be especially true with many schools temporarily closed to reduce contagion.Lyons reminds us, to “make sure everyone in your family (kids, parents, spouses, and anyone else with a key to the premises) knows that when you’re working you’re not available to help settle minor juice-box-related spats or engage in idle chitchat. Shared living spaces can get noisy, so if your workspace isn’t isolated from common areas, I strongly recommend getting some noise-canceling headphones to signal to others that you’re not to be disturbed and to avoid getting drawn into conversations that are going to distract you from an important deadline.”

You’re probably going to try to get some chores done when you’re working from home.That’s okay.“Be realistic about what you can get done. Taking out the garbage or checking the mail are two ways to get away from your desk for a quick break, but it’s probably not practical to try to conquer that mountain of laundry all at once while you’re on the clock.”

“Another suggestion: don’t offer to be the on-call person for friends and neighbors. Of course you should help in emergencies, but if you’re always the go-to for package deliveries or to feed people’s pets “because you’re home anyway,” this can quickly become more time-consuming than is fair. Establish — and stick to — clear boundaries about when you are and aren’t available.”

Get the tools you need

“You’ll get a lot of advice about investing in various work tools, such as a standing desk or a separate work computer,” says Lyons. “If you have the resources to do this and think it will help you (and better still, if your company will reimburse you for these expenses), go for it. If your company is requiring you to work from home, find out what tools they’ll provide and what they’ll pay for.”

“In addition to the noise-canceling headphones, the only must-haves for my own work-from-home setup are a decent Wi-Fi connection, a computer that meets my needs (this will vary greatly depending on your job), and a reliable cellphone. But if you end up working from home long term, you’ll figure out what you need and what you can afford.”

Looking ahead

Working remotely is not for everyone.  Doing it well requires the right work environment, the right type of job and the right mindset.  However, if all those factors are present, you may find working remotely offers a sense of freedom and flexibility that you’ve never had in your work.

About Espyr

Espyr’s innovative coaching and assistance programs have been helping employees and organizations achieve their full potential for 30 years. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.