Staying sane working from home can be quite the challenge. Not all of us wanted to suddenly work from home permanently. Not all of us were set up to work from home. But we have had to adapt. So the question is: how do we make it work from a mental health perspective?
Focus on everything that is awesome about working from home
Personally, I got really excited about working from home when the first lockdown kicked in. I had been planning to ask my boss if I could work from home once a week going forward and suddenly, I got to work from home every day! Result!
The way I looked at it, working from home was a total winner
- No more commuting. I won an hour and a half A DAY that I could use to do something less stressful. No driving also meant no petrol and a substantial saving.
- If I didn’t sleep well, I could stay in bed until 9am then turn on the laptop.
- When my period kicked in, I worked from bed with all my remedies in reach.
- I didn’t have to prepare my food the day before, I could cook at lunchtime.
- I could manage my energy better. I sometimes have an energy drop at midday. Working from home meant that I could either take a 20-minute power nap or a quick walk around the block to re-energise me.
- When I got really stressed with work, I could turn on do-not-disturb and have a 5-minute meditation to get back to centre.
- Goodbye beautiful-but-oh-so-painful stilettos, hello to living in my gym gear.
And then summer kicked in! So I added to this list:
- Getting a tan while working. I took calls in the garden as much as possible.
- Getting fresh air all day. I don’t have a home office so I work from the dining table. This meant that when the weather was good, I opened the French patio doors and it literally felt like I was outside. That was an improvement on the air con at work!
- Drying the laundry outdoors during working hours. It would be all done within 2 hours when it usually takes 24h indoors.
There were even actual work benefits
Without the constant noise and frequent interruptions of my open plan at work, I was able to be a lot more productive. My performance rate definitely increased, without my hours having to increase too.
Make working for home work for you
Working from home means flexibility. Embrace it! What are the things that working from home makes possible for you?
Does it mean you have more time to work out?
I certainly utilised my new free time this way. I usually get up at the same time as I did when I was going into the office every day and I am able to enjoy my morning more.
Is it easier for you to set up better eating habits?
I love my colleagues and their generosity, but I am not missing the cake table! It used to take so much willpower not to steal a piece of cake every time I went to refill my water and had to walk pass the table.
The cake table was unfortunately located in my peripheral vision. This was so tempting when I was working late and started to feel hungry! Well, no more temptation since working from home! Now when there is cake in my space, it is because I have made a conscious decision to bring it in.
Also I used to bring in my morning smoothie, my lunch, some pre-cut slices of lemons to have in hot water and healthy snacks. It was a lot to prep, remember and carry. And if I forgot or couldn’t be bothered to prep, I would end up eating less healthy food on sale at work, which also costed more money in the long run.
You can get your groceries when it suits you
If you need to go out for groceries, you can do it when the shops are empty. I have found grocery shopping a growing source of anxiety over the last few months, so I decided to change my shopping habits and pick non-peak times to pop to the shops. Sometimes I end up going in the middle of the afternoon and make up for the time later in the early evening. It means less people, less risk and a much faster job.
Like many of us I have now moved to online shopping and again I can get my groceries delivered in the middle of the day which is cheaper! Hurray!
Get your chores done as you go along
Can you incorporate some of your house chores as you go along during the week so that the weekend is no longer all about getting chores done? It is so easy to launch a laundry just before starting work and taking a 5-minute to put it up to dry later on. And it is time won at the weekend.
Be grateful for these moments along the way
Remember to appreciate the fact that you are working from home every time you do these things. This situation will not last forever so we have to make the most of it while we can. (See how I totally re-framed a lockdown into a positive situation? 😉)
Keep a routine
I can’t say this enough, a strong routine is essential to keep your mental health in a good place. And it is even more important when we are working from home and could easily let ourselves go because no one would notice! So here are a few pointers to help you set up the right routine for yourself.
Have them. Don’t fall into the habit of keeping your laptop open 24/7 and checking your emails all the time.
Make a decision about what time you should log on and log off and keep to these times as much as practicable.
Put the laptop away
If you have a home office, then it is easy to shut that door and walk away for the evening or the weekend. But if like me you don’t, have a dedicated cupboard for your work laptop and use it. Put your laptop to bed in the evening or at least for the weekend. I currently do not have a work laptop cupboard, so I put the laptop back into its case at the weekend, so I don’t see it.
Plan things before and after work
This is a trick I learned years ago when I was trying to stop myself from working 80h a week.
I started to plan things after work so that I had to stop work. It worked very well for me and this is why to this day I still have such a busy week schedule, even in lockdown. At the moment, after work I have online fitness classes, meet-ups, video calls with friends, live personal development training to name a few.
In the morning I also have a routine so that I feel like I have done a few things for myself before the pressure of work hits me: meditation, journaling, exercising, shower and smoothie. When I log on at 9am, I feel fresh, awake and ready to be productive. And usually, I am in a good mood too because all these things contribute to improving my mental health.
Have a real week
Please do yourself a favour and don’t work at the weekend. It is so tempting to just finish that task that requires piece and quiet, especially if you don’t have plans, but your brain needs to switch off.
So plan other activities to make sure you’re not tempted and make them fun to make sure that you feel more like doing this than to work. I recently treated myself with a novel. I immersed myself in it for a week, spending huge chunks of my weekend and evenings reading. It was brilliant and so refreshing for the brain! Reading fiction is a great way to switch off.
Things to include in your routine to boost your morale
- Getting some fresh air and sunlight a few times a week
- Doing something fun that you enjoy regularly
- Time for people you love even if it is just a short walk, a call or video call
- Laugh – if you’re going to bing on TV, make sure you pick something that will make you laugh at loud
For more tips on how to stay sane during these crazy times, you can read the following: