Before 2020, working from home was nothing more than a pipe dream for many employees. Now, things have changed. The Pew Research Center reported that before the COVID-19 pandemic, out of those who said they could do their work from home, only one in five teleworked (Parker, 2020). As of February 2022, about 59% of people who can work from home do (Parker, 2022). Among those who have the option to stay home or enter the office, 61% have chosen not to return (Parker, 2022).
Working from home has obvious benefits: comfy clothes, no commuting, a flexible schedule, access to your kitchen, and more. I’m a big fan of wrapping myself up in a giant fuzzy blanket and petting my dog (also wrapped in said blanket) between emails. But, as is life, there are some cons to remote work; technology problems, lack of connection with coworkers, and home distractions can make managing a remote job challenging. Another possible issue could be the balance between working and home life. If the lines get too blurred, you might experience burnout.
Since this significant shift to remote work, “burnout has become one of the most important psychosocial occupational hazards in today’s society, generating significant costs for both individuals and organizations” (Edú-Valsania, 2022). Burnout is an individual’s response to work-related chronic stress that progressively develops and may cause health issues (Edú-Valsania, 2022). Psychologically, it causes “damage at a cognitive, emotional, and attitudinal level, which translates to negative behavior towards work, peers, users, and the professional role itself” (Edú-Valsania, 2022). Please note that this is not the individual’s problem; it is a consequence of the work itself.
Physically, burnout can cause things like (Gardner, 2014),
• sleep deprivation
• changes in eating habits
• increased illness due to a weakened immune system
• difficulty concentrating and poor memory/attention
• lack of productivity
• poor performance
• avoidance of responsibilities
• loss of enjoyment
It is vital that when working remotely, we are aware of our mental health. I took to the BlueTickSocial team to ask how we manage our mental health while working from home. The BTS team is made up of fully remote employees, working anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a day. It just depends on the day and the workload, but it’s flexible to whatever that specific employee needs to do for that day. I think it’s important to note that with flexibility comes the opportunity for overworking or neglecting your own needs.
Based on our fabulous BTS team member’s responses and the research I’ve compiled, here are five ways to maintain your mental health while working remotely.
Setting Boundaries: Promoting Work-Life Balance for Enhanced Well-Being
Our Director of writing, Lauren Rowe, emphasized the importance of boundaries with yourself and your job. She has her notifications timed for work hours, so when she is “off the clock,” she has a physical barrier to keep her mind present in her personal life. Grant Freeland, a writer for Forbes, echoes this sentiment. He writes that many people “feel obliged to think about work, check their email, scan their phones for text messages… with little respite and no clear boundaries” (Freeland). He writes of the importance for employers and employees to recognize this new occupational hazard – overworking from a lack of boundaries – and take the necessary steps to encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Harnessing the Power of Sunlight: Prioritizing Vitamin D While Working Remote
Make sure you are getting your vitamin D. Whether setting up your workstation by a window or scheduling time to be outside, as Sasha Khatami, Director of Operations at BTS, recommends, getting sunlight is vital to our health. Biologically speaking, “vitamin D improves the immune function, regulates the inflammatory response, and influences calcium homeostasis” (An, 2016). In the workplace, sunlight exposure has strong positive effects on mental health (An, 2016). While remote work lets you answer emails from your kitchen table, it may also limit your time with nature. Make sure you see the sun as much as possible – it’s there to help!
Prioritizing Physical Activity: Boosting Mental Health and Well-being Through Movement
Get moving, no matter what it looks like. In a study about the correlation between mental health and physical activity in university students, Herbert et al. found that “physical activity, mental health, and well-being are positively related” (2022). They also report that low to mid-intensity exercises may be the best options for improving depressive symptoms and perceived stress (Herbert, 2022). The Center for Disease Control says that “regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp” (2022). Many team members take walks before or after work to move their bodies and re-center their minds. We must ensure we are giving our bodies the attention they deserve.
Embracing Variety and Flexibility: Balancing Remote Work with a Change of Scenery
The perk to remote work is being able to work from home… that’s the whole point. However, that could also be a setback. You must leave the house – or, at least, the room you’re in - and get a change of scenery. Researchers at New York University and the University of Miami studied this phenomenon during the pandemic. They found that “people feel happier when they have more variety in their daily routines – when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences” (2020). Founder and CEO of BTS, Yasmine Khosrowshahi, follows this mindset. She says that it is vital she leaves her house every day. She exclaims, “Your job is not your life!” She prefers a fully remote or sometimes hybrid work schedule; some days, she’s in the office, and some days she’s home.
Embracing Leisure and Personal Enjoyment: Maximizing the Benefits of Flexible Remote Work
Whether playing with the dog, knitting, or watching the newest horror movie, we must give ourselves time to enjoy life. Remote work often allows for the flexibility to craft our day more than working in a traditional office. If you can, take advantage of it. Grab lunch with your friends, get that Starbucks coffee, or stop by the library to see what book will occupy your night.
At the heart of this piece is one core message: you are more important than anything else the world throws at you, including your job. As, Yasmine, says, “What defines your value is how much time you physically put into yourself and your mental health, which, in turn, brings you value and self-peace.”
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-grey-jacket-sits-on-bed-uses-grey-laptop-935743/