By: Lori Daugherty, CEO, IMCS Group
Reaction to the pandemic has demanded that many employees pull up stakes and work from home this year. While working from home has some time, money and convenient benefits, such as skipping the commute, retiring business attire and grabbing home-cooked meals, the work-from-home paradigm has its own challenges.
Despite any cons, 99% of remote workers want to continue some form of telecommuting after the pandemic, and 74% of companies plan to shift some of their employees permanently to the remote workforce post-covid. Statistics reveal that remote workers earn more income, cost employers less, are generally more productive and appreciate the flexibility in their schedules.
That means, much of the workforce is now adapting to the environmental and mental changes of work-from-home and maybe even missing the familiar trappings of the workplace, such as the commute-meditation-transition between work and home, business lunches and even interruptions for water-cooler talk.
Twenty percent of remote workers claim communication is an obstacle, while 19 percent report loneliness as their biggest challenge. In a poll of U.S. employees working from home due to the pandemic, 51% are experiencing burnout, and 52% do not plan on taking time off work regardless of feeling burned out.
Working from home affects human connection, communication, relationships, concentration, schedule, creativity, focus and just about every aspect of mental health. For most, if nothing else, it represents change, which is stressful in and of itself.
Whether you’ve worked from home for a decade or it’s new to you, here are some behavioral tips to make the most of the advantages of remote working and to protect your mental health:
Mentally compartmentalize work time vs. personal time
You know you should, but have you committed to a clear division in these ways?
- Create a morning routine for workdays that’s distinct from your non-work days. If you shave, dress, make coffee and start work on time as a routine, it primes your brain for work mode and shifts your focus.
- Dedicate a workspace in your home where you can close the door or separate your work from the home’s other activities. If you are unable to dedicate a workspace, then commit to shutting down your computer and stashing it in a briefcase along with documents and other work supplies kept out of sight during non-work times.
- Make a clear distinction between work time and free time. Have a known, posted start and end time. Blow the proverbial whistle at the end of the day, and shut down work with a routine that primes your brain for personal focus! If you can use different devices (computers) during work and personal time, that helps too.
- Turn off work notifications after hours and turn off personal notifications during work hours. It’s more important than ever to keep focused and not get bombarded with all the aspects of your life at once.
Take your breaks and lunches
Don’t forget that you need to walk away, even during work time. And don’t fill your breaks with personal chores like laundry. Here’s what you can do to get a moment away:
Schedule time for a mental reset, just like you would schedule a meeting. Set a timer during the day for a 15-minute appointment with yourself, and physically remove yourself from all screen time to release anxiety, de-stress and re-energize your mind. As with everything else we need to take care of daily, it is imperative we make a conscious effort to take care of ourselves.
- Close your eyes and let your mind wander
- Stretch, practice relaxed breathing or go for a walk
- Practice mindfulness, experiencing only the present moment and your surroundings
- If you can schedule more time, research shows that a 30-minute nap helps you feel more alert upon waking
Do more than you think you should to stay connected
Since you are no longer in physical proximity with your team, find new ways to inspire closeness, connection, creativity and communication. Work relationships are relationships and they require cultivation to remain strong.
- You are not a lone wolf. Set-up and attend team conferences.
- Create chat spaces where colleagues can post day-in-the-life thoughts, quotes, ideas and stories.
- Reach out to your workmates and schedule shared lunchtimes to laugh and decompress.
- Employers have long known that water-cooler time (spontaneous conversation in the workplace unrelated to agenda tasks) provides valuable innovation. Just because your home, doesn’t mean that you should give up work socialization. Carve time on meetings or other gatherings to connect.
- Set-up a permanent online workspace where people can work together informally. Even working in silence with others provides camaraderie. You’ll stave off loneliness and the spontaneous conversation will erupt.
- Take special care to calendar and remember birthdays and other important events in your co-workers’ lives so you can reach out and connect.
Telecommuting is here to stay. Make sure to give yourself premiere adaptation skills and habits to reap the rewards and mitigate the risks of working from home
About Lori Daugherty
Loraine Daugherty is Chief Executive Officer at Integrated Medical Case Solutions (IMCS) Group where she provides analytical decision-making, strategic planning and executive leadership. As CEO, she is focused on developing best practices for organizational processes, performance measurement systems and building IMCS’s infrastructure to maximize the company’s growth. With more than 30 years of industry experience in workers’ compensation, Ms. Daugherty also has professional expertise in Medicaid, Medicare Part B, third-party contracting, administration, client services and operations. Known for her exceptional leadership style and professional savvy for cultivating high-performance teams, Ms. Daugherty was recruited to implement an enterprise growth strategy and maximize business results for IMCS. Prior to joining IMCS, she worked with both private and public entities and has a track record of successful launches of early-stage healthcare companies as well as successful exits to strategic and public entities.