Updated: Aug 19
Perhaps one of the very few blessings to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been employers' willingness to accept remote work for their employees.
According to Flex Jobs, full-time remote work saves the average employee $12,000 a year, and hybrid work (half in the office and half at home) saves the average employee $6,000 a year. The same study also showed that transitioning to remote work could save the average former commuter 55.2 minutes in commute time each day. This tallies up to an incredible 264 hours each year! For commuters living in more traffic-dense communities, this number can almost double.
But while newly remote workers enjoy the surplus of money and time they’ve been handed back, how will these new working conditions affect their mental health and well-being?
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A 2021 survey by The American Psychiatric Association (APA) revealed that a majority of remote employees found that their mental health deteriorated significantly following their transition to a remote working environment. Loneliness, isolation, and an inability to separate from work at the end of each day were cited as the leading factors for this decline.
So, how can we as employees reap the lovely benefits remote work has given us, while still ensuring our mental health is in tip-top shape? Here are some quick suggestions for boosting, preserving, and protecting your mental health while working from home.
Suggestions For Remote Employees
1. Put Yourself in a Local Community
Whether you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert, the reality still remains the same: you need people! In fact, according to UCLA Psychology professor, Matthew Lieberman, social connection to other humans is just as vital as our daily need for food, water, and shelter. The Mayo Clinic states that socialization is what helps humans fight loneliness, strengthen memory and cognitive skills, boost happiness and well-being, and even increase life expectancy. Being around other people is necessary for our mental health.
Unfortunately for many, work was the place where much of their socialization occurred. If you’re a new remote worker, you’ll need to be proactive in finding a new community to socialize with. If it’s not with family or close friends, there are plenty of other ways to connect yourself to a new community. Here are just a few ideas…
Talk to your neighbors.
Volunteer in your community.
Join a local church.
Join some kind of sport/book/activity club.
Get a gym membership and sign up for an exercise class.
2. Create a Daily Routine
Creating a daily routine can help to manage stress, create a sense of purpose, and stay productive throughout the day. Routines additionally allow for the building of healthy habits such as meditation, daily exercise, or chatting on the phone with a loved one all of which have positive effects on one’s mental health.
While each remote worker is going to vary, here’s an easy example of a healthy daily routine:
7:00am - wakeup / get dressed / get ready for the day / drink a glass of water
7:15am - breakfast / read / meditate
8:00am - Start work
10:00am - Step away from the computer and go for a quick walk / grab a snack
12:30pm - lunch / go outside for a few breaths of fresh air / call a loved one
3:00pm - Step away from the computer / grab a snack / walk around
4:00pm - Finish and disconnect from all work
5:00pm - Exercise
5:45pm - Dinner
7:00pm - Social time (family, friends, or community group)
9:00pm - Bedtime
3. Maintain a Healthy At-Home Diet
Studies have long shown that diet has a direct influence on the state of our physical and mental health. Now that you’re working from home, keeping a healthy and clean diet can become more accessible as you’ll have more time to plan and prepare healthy homemade meals and nutritious snacks.
Try your best to avoid mindless or bored snacking as the increased time at home means more opportunities for trips to the refrigerator or pantry. A helpful tip could be scheduling out your snack breaks so you’re not making excessive trips for unnecessary munching. Incorporating herbal teas such as lemon balm tea throughout the day can help boost your energy and mood.
4. Reach out To Fellow Employees / Employers
Just because you're not in the office with them anymore, doesn’t mean you and your colleagues aren’t still a part of a team. Connecting with both employees and employers can help you to feel less isolated and stressed while doing day-to-day work tasks. The steady flow of communication also allows you and your colleagues to bear each other's work burdens, achieve a sense of community and belonging, and experience smoother work days.
5. Limit Social Media Consumption
With no boss to monitor your every move, it can be tempting to check social media throughout the day. But it’s important to try and discipline yourself for a limited amount of time as The National Center For Health Research found that individuals who frequently checked social media were more likely to struggle with depression than those who didn’t. A helpful tip could be scheduling specific times throughout the day when you will allow yourself to check up on your different social media platforms.
6. Turn off The Computer and Phone
Set a designated time each night to be completely finished with work… and stay true to that time! Ensure you’re not tempted by work-related texts, calls, and emails. Unplug or silence your devices. Since you’re working from home now, you won’t have the long commute that allows you to mentally unwind and detach from work. Taking a walk instead can help tell your brain that work is over and it’s time to relax.
Regardless of your remote work status, it is imperative to set yourself up for success mentally and physically.
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