While working from home has long been a dream for many people, for those who have had to transition overnight to remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can feel like more of a nightmare. With unemployment high, and working outside the home risky, if you are working from home, you may feel grateful to have a job and relative safety, but that doesn’t make the situation easier. Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic can force you to deal with many stressors, including isolation, anxiety, and interpersonal issues, as you try to adjust to continuing to perform your job well in a greatly changed environment.1 Or, if you were already working from home, an environment, which now possibly includes children, a spouse, partner or roommate that may have typically left the house for work and school. This situation can put a great deal of stress on your mental health, but there are techniques and strategies that can help you cope and maintain your wellbeing. Wellbeing is a broad concept that the CDC describes as “judging life positively and feeling good.”2 While it may seem difficult to have a positive view on life and feel good during difficult times, there are ways to cope and even thrive. 

Kids Work From Home

Schedules can create order out of chaos

Creating a regular schedule can be a useful way to improve focus and maintain some sense of control. This doesn’t need to be a strict schedule. Dr. Maura Glaude suggests a sort of “summer schedule.” By keeping meals and bedtimes regular, everyone in the household can work to give their days some structure. To avoid burnout, it is important to set limits on work time. Just because you’re working from home, that doesn’t mean you are always at work.3 Be sure to let other people in your household know your schedule. Then they can know to be quiet during times you may be working, and you can return the favor when they are working or studying. For those of us who have always worked from home, defining clear boundaries for work time and family/social time, will go far in helping our family members and/or roommates understand when we are available and when we are not. 

Limit your news intake

Many people find managing or limiting their information intake can be a helpful way to manage stress and allow them to focus on other aspects of life. It can be tempting to keep checking the news every few minutes to see if there are any new developments, but this can raise anxiety and make it more challenging to focus on work, family, and hobbies. One popular recommendation is to spend half an hour a day reading, watching, or listening to news from a reputable source and then choosing to avoid checking the news outside of that time.4 Limiting how often you check social media can also be a wise part of limiting your news intake.  

Wellbeing Work From Home
You are not alone. Find ways to connect with others whether it be via online meetings, phone calls, texts or scheduling time with the people you are self-isolating with.

Avoiding feelings of isolation and depression

Finding ways to stay connected to others during this crisis is essential for everyone. It can be particularly difficult for those who are unemployed or working from home. If you are sharing a household with others, make sure to schedule quality time together. This could be game nights or simply shared meals. While physically meeting up with people outside your household is not recommended during this time, thanks to the internet, there are still many ways to connect. This can include virtual meetings with coworkers, creating a group text to share tips and hints, or just picking up the phone and calling someone. 

Dealing with Guilt

With so many people unemployed or working in dangerous conditions in frontline jobs, people in the position to work from home can often feel guilt. Guilt related to parenting, the inability to help friends or family members, and other factors can also be difficult during this time.5 Accepting that some feelings of guilt are inevitable during this crisis and not dwelling on those feelings or punishing yourself for them can help. Be compassionate with yourself. Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can under stressful conditions.

Seek Help if Needed

If you are struggling with your mental health during this time, you are not alone. Isolation and stress can cause or exacerbate a variety of mental health conditions.6 Many mental health professionals are conducting appointments by phone or via video chat. You can also reach out to your primary care provider. If you are struggling with aspects related to your job and how to work from home, you can reach out to your employer for advice and assistance.   

While working from home has many challenges, it can also provide opportunities. Time that might otherwise be spent commuting can instead be devoted to hobbies. While distractions from other household members can be frustrating, there will be far fewer distractions from coworkers. In a world that seems full of rapid and stressful transitions, working from home doesn’t have to be a painful or totally negative change. 

Citations for,”Maintaining Your Wellbeing While Working From Home During the Pandemic”
1 Staglin, Garen. “When Home Becomes The Workplace: Mental Health And Remote Work.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, March 17, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2020/03/17/when-home-becomes-the-workplace-mental-health-and-remote-work/#5f6ff8e1760b.
2 “Well-Being Concepts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 31, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/wellbeing.htm#three.
3, 4 Moran, Gwen. “How to Maintain Your Mental Health While Working from Home.” Fast Company. Fast Company, March 20, 2020. https://www.fastcompany.com/90479504/how-to-maintain-your-mental-health-while-working-from-home.
5 Morin, Amy. “5 Steps to Help You Overcome Any Guilt You May Be Feeling during the Pandemic, According to a Psychotherapist.” Business Insider. Business Insider, April 8, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/5-steps-to-deal-with-guilt-during-covid-coronavirus-pandemic-2020-4.
6 “Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 16, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

Photos courtesy of:
1 © Irinayeryomina | Dreamstime.com
2 © Teeraphat Sirisatonpun | Dreamstime.com

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