In March many of us had to begin working from home due to the Covid restrictions. It was great, right? No commute, no overpriced lunches, roll out of bed and start work in your pyjamas for the day where the only stresses were to scramble for a decent looking jumper to wear whilst having Zoom chats. What was there not to like? We had the potential to spend more quality time with family and finally there was a solution to the modern phenomenon of striking that work life balance.
Fast forward seven months and we’re now in another lockdown but the future is even less certain and there’s a concern on how our mental health is suffering and will continue to suffer.
The working from home dream has turned into a nightmare for some. In my work as a counsellor almost every person has had a Covid related issue and a significant majority of people had been affected by working from home. There were the expected issues involving the lack of camaraderie, the lack of colleague support, poor WiFi and the endless video meetings.
What did surprise me were the individual cases, the person who craved the commute where they could ‘switch on’ for work and then ‘switch off’ on the drive home, the couple in a small apartment both working off the kitchen table, getting in each others way, the person who found himself logging on ‘a couple of hours early’ and still working at 8/9pm, the person who had to cover the computer with a towel so she couldn’t see it whilst trying to watch T.V. in the evening. These examples were endless but the common theme was that work/life was blending into family life to such an extent that there was no differentiating between work and leisure or work and family and this was causing people’s mental health to suffer.
In my role as a counsellor it was important to point out what was happening in these instances and for the person to acknowledge how far things have blurred and that it was so entrenched in their lives that they didn't even realise what was happening!
Whilst talking to many people on this subject I’ve come up with some ideas to reinstate boundaries in your work life.
A lot of people have had an increase in workload during this period but it is important to keep a perspective on how much time you are actually working. Are you working longer through guilt or fear? Are you expected to work the amount of time you are?
Are you working in a family area? if so is it possible to pack away your laptop/ notepad etc in the evening as a way of ‘finishing’ the work day and then setting up the next morning as a way of ‘beginning’ the work day?
Can you get out for a walk during your work day, weather permitting of course! Time away from the desk doing moderate exercise has been shown to boost mood and work productivity.
Do you have a supportive, comfortable workspace? Do you have external monitors and keyboards which can take stress away from the eyes, the back and shoulders.
Can you still have a healthy productive routine? Can you wake up early, have a shower, have a healthy breakfast, then in the evening schedule time to talk to friends/spend time with family, go for a walk or a bike ride and have screen free time.
I hope this helps you feel a little less overwhelmed about things and realise that there are a lot of people struggling with this at the moment and small changes can really make big differences.. Happy Working!! Mike