Crazy, chaotic, overwhelming…are some of the terms that can best describe working from home, especially for newly remote employees, who’re still lucky to have a job. 

Although it is nothing compared to the painful experience of millions across the world who have lost their lives or livelihoods since COVID-19 hit, it is nonetheless a valid concern.

A 2017 McKinsey & Company report found that there were roughly 68 million freelancers in the U.S. They also found that gig workers who do it by choice report being happier than in the traditional 9-to-5 role.

However, some workers are being “forced” (by COVID-19 or their employers) to work from home, and are experiencing challenges. In this post, I’ll address work from home issues and highlight five (5) ways to stay sane while working from home.

Journaling

According to University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker, regular journaling strengthens immune cells. It is also believed that journaling can help you regain control of your emotions and improve your mental health and wellness if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety,

Some workers are increasingly dealing with mental health issues and stress while working from home. This could be work-related or unrelated like having to work while taking care of sick parents, toddlers, or dealing with an unreasonable and abusive spouse.

Such workers cannot wait for schools to resume or to return to the office so they can have a breather, but when exactly will that be? In order to cope, you can start to keep a journal.

Preferably before bed, set aside 20 minutes a day (or more) to write down your thoughts, experiences, fears, wishes, losses, wins, etc, work-related or not. This can bring you extra clarity, help put things in proper perspective, and help you stay sane while working from home.

Social Interactions

Whereas journaling is akin to you giving yourself a pep talk (assuming you have no intentions of publishing), it is also necessary to talk to someone or others. This can be done with colleagues, friends, or acquaintances.

Whether online, offline, via Skype, social media, or in-person, maintaining helpful social interactions can help brighten your day as you navigate remote work. These interactions could center around shared work from home experiences, for instance.

In the process, you could learn about how your colleagues are adjusting to remote work, what tips and tricks they’re using to cope with the new normal, their fears, hopes, shortcomings, and wins. This will help you to realize that you’re not alone and that you too can do something about it.

This kind of peer to peer support system can help to build validation and help you better adapt to working from home. You can learn tips from productivity to organizing your home office, collaboration, and managing your time.

Open Communication

A culture of open communication can open new doors for newly remote employees to experience and enjoy working from home as they wouldn’t have to figure out every single detail themselves.

Most companies have a documented work from home policy in place that guides how remote work should be approached by staff, including communication. This provides cohesion and makes working from home a tad easier.

Effective communication is central to successful collaboration in distributed teams. This helps employees stay in the loop, ensuring that work gets done as at when due. This can be done via Slack, Trello, Zoom calls, etc.

A critical part of corporate communication during COVID-19 is to share and learn how employees are coping with the new normal, and to find the best ways to maximize remote work.

Bonding

If you’re blessed to have a caring spouse, children, siblings, pets or other support systems that you can depend on, then by all means spend time bonding with them. 

Working from home for the first time can be challenging. You could struggle with waking up early, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner, setting up your office space, installing software, or using collaboration tools.

Taking regular breaks to spend time with the ones you love can help you stay grounded, and must not be taken for granted. This can take place in-person or via video calls.

Knowing your family and friends are keeping afloat and safe amidst COVID-19 lockdowns can keep you going at your work from home job without fearing for their finances and safety.

Overcome Stress, Burnout

Working from home can blur the boundary between work and home making it much more difficult to reach work-life balance, which can easily lead to overwork, stress, and burnout.

A report released by NordVPN found that on average, American workers who work from home are working three hours extra. Much of this time goes unnoticed and unrewarded or uncompensated.

By taking proactive measures, workers can minimize incidences of overwork, stress and burnout. This can be achieved by proper planning, time management, taking regular breaks, interacting with friends, and colleagues.

It is important and possible to stay sane and stress-free while working from home. It will take some time and practice to master, but the rewards are well worth it in terms of productivity and efficiency.

Conclusion

As a remote worker, it is your primary responsibility to maintain sanity and mental wellness when working from home.

To achieve that, try

  1. Journaling
  2. Maintaining social interactions
  3. Practicing open communication
  4. Making out time to bond with loved ones
  5. Avoiding overwork, stress, and burnout
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