As we pass the one year mark for the “start” of the pandemic (or at least the start of shut downs and quarantining here in the United States) it’s hard not to take a pause and think about all the ways our lives have shifted in the last year.
One of the most obvious changes is the way workplace culture (mainly for non-essential workers) looks completely different now.
Since it’s been a full year of working in this very different way, most of us who have shifted to remote work probably feel that we’ve adjusted by now. However, working from home is different than working in a shared space–it’s not just sitting in front of a computer in different places! Remote work, with its many advantages, has its own unique wellness challenges to keep in mind. Add on top of that the burnout so many of us are feeling because instead of feeling like we’re working from home, it’s starting to feel like we’re just living at work.
This isn’t to say that working from home is all bad. There are a lot of benefits of working from home! There is more flexibility in your hours, you don’t have to worry about commuting or sharing an office space with an office mate with habits that bother you, you can often balance your work/life priorities and create a schedule that works for you, just to name a few.
But there are disadvantages too. Just as there are disadvantages to working in a shared office space, working from home can have it’s challenges. These can include things like:
While working in an office you can share lunch with coworkers in the break room or chat by the coffee pot or pop into one another’s offices, working from home means your “office culture” is limited to pretty much just you.
If you’re working from home it can be easy to get distracted by other household chores. That pile of laundry, that sink full of dishes, that errand that needs running, can start to slip into your designated work time and make it harder for you to stay motivated and productive, and at the same time start blending that distinction between your work life and your home life.
Trouble separating work life from home life:
This is probably the hardest one. When there is no physical separation between work and home it’s hard to have any other kind of separation. If you’re right by your computer, how late is too late to keep working? How early is too early to start? How often are you checking your work email while at home? This one is especially hard since so many of us have been finding our feeling of self worth through work if we still have it, since our lives have been so restricted in almost every other area in the last year. (You can check out our last post on separating yourself worth from work here).
So what can we do?
There isn’t a one size fits all solution to maintaining workplace wellness at home, because what you need from an at-home work space is going to be the result of whatever specific blend of work and home needs you have. But there are certain things to keep in mind to help you maintain a work from home lifestyle, while still taking your wellness into consideration, and acknowledging the areas of work-from-home life that need a little outside support. Here are 3 things to keep in mind:
Consider your home environment & need for privacy while working from home:
If you live with other people who are home during the day, you’ve likely already had to lay down the law re: work from home boundaries. (Since we’ve been at this for about a year now!) When is it okay for them to pop in your office? How will they know that? Are there times you need it to be quieter than usual?
But be careful not to over correct. Remember isolation is a downside of working from home. If you’ve gone your entire professional life working in a social environment, not having that can feel draining–yes even the absence of something can drain your energy! Remind yourself there was time to be social and connected with others in your office life, so there should be time for that in your home-office life. Whether that’s having casual meetings with your team just to chat and touch base, or taking a break midday to go have a meal with your roommates, just make sure your need for privacy isn’t exacerbating any isolation you may be feeling as a result of working from home.
Reevaluate your schedule:
A lot of us probably have an ideal work schedule in our head. But when we get used to always being “at work” it can be easy to throw that out of the window in an attempt to get as much done as possible. And it’s also easy to run to the kitchen, microwave some leftovers and bring them back to your desk as you work through lunch. Unfortunately, all of this is just a one way ticket to burnout–something we seem to be facing more as we feel this sense of “living at work.” And we know that being burned out makes it harder to do even basic things, so we definitely can’t do our best work when we’re burned out.
We also live in a culture that values overworking ourselves, so when we’re not going ‘above and beyond’ we feel like we’re somehow behind. But it’s time to accept that we’re living through a pandemic and our productivity level is just not able to keep up with what it was in non-pandemic times. With this in mind, think realistically about your work. At the minimum, set a time to get started and a time to end, and set yourself a designated “lunch break.”
Be strict about respecting your free time when working from home:
A great way to feel better at work is to make sure your whole life isn’t work. If you have time carved out in your day to take a class for fun, to volunteer somewhere in your community, to read in bed, to try a new craft, etc–that time is crucial! Resist the temptation to reschedule or put off the things you enjoy “until you get one more thing done.”
If you need help figuring out where your work/life balance needs support, we can help.