It wasn’t that long ago that working from home was considered a luxury that only a few could afford. But with the pandemic setting in, working from home (WFH) became the norm. And suddenly it doesn’t feel like all that it was made out to be. To start with, the pandemic forced most people to switch from work-from-office to WFH, irrespective of their preference, and studies show that perceived lack of choice can add to people’s overall sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Secondly, even for those who may have preferred WFH, the suddenness of the change deprived them of the opportunity to plan and prepare for it. In many households, the added responsibility of children being at home, with the schools going online, only added to the chaos.
But Work From Home need not be all distress, challenges and constraints. If we follow the right set of guidelines, it can be a pleasant experience for most even in the current situation. Here is a list of 7 guidelines to change WFH into a boon rather than a bane!
1. Follow a healthy routine
Having a healthy routine is one of the most underrated mental health tools. For the uninitiated, WFH seems to bring out the worst in people. From starting work before even brushing teeth to sleeping with one’s laptop still turned on by their side, there is no dearth of unhealthy routines in people’s lives. This can be disastrous for your mental health.
Follow a well-defined healthy routine. Start with sleeping and waking up at a set time each day, followed with a personal hygiene routine (shower, change), moving on to some stretching or exercise, followed by small rituals (like a cup of tea/ breakfast with family or meditation) to ease into the work day. Begin work at a scheduled time and as far as possible, stop at a pre-decided time. Take short breaks every 30-45 min and make sure that you take proper breaks for your meal.
2. Focus on all the benefits of Work From Home
Changing the way we think about WFH can bring about a significant shift in the way we feel about it. Instead of allowing your thoughts to routinely worry about how you dislike the current situation, deliberately list down and focus on all the opportunities and benefits that the WFH situation presents. From closer proximity to family members through the day or having more chances to invest in learning new skills, to finding more time to focus on your health and relationships, this situation presents a lot of openings to live a more deliberate and meaningful life.
3. Invest in your home office
Do not under any circumstances work from your bed and avoid working from that favorite couch you like to lounge on. It was okay to do so when you were doing that odd hour of Work From Home, on the weekends, but it is not going to fly when you are working from home every day. A separate work room that can shut out distractions while you focus on work, would be ideal. But if that is not possible, designate a particular corner or side of the room from which you will be working. Invest in a worktable (you could also opt for a second hand or inexpensive but sturdy collapsible table) and a chair that supports your back well. Your posture and physical comfort while working makes a big difference to how you feel about the work you do and how energized you feel through the day.
4. Get physically active
Your physical health and mental health are intricately linked. When you are involved in physical exercise, not only does that make you physically stronger but also stimulates the production of endorphins – chemicals in the brain that act as mood elevators and painkillers. Physical activity also reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. So, whether it is practicing yoga or shaking a leg to Zumba or going for the good old brisk walk, make sure to add a dose of physical exercise to every single day.
5. Connect with nature
Spending more time in green spaces and/or bringing nature into your everyday life, whether it is by growing plants or exercising outdoors or being around animals, is known to benefit mental as well as physical health. It helps reduce stress, increase relaxation, boost self-esteem and improve your mood. For city dwellers, having tea in the balcony each day or taking a walk in the open air (even within the building complex) could be ways to make interaction with nature a part of your daily routine.
6. Take Digital breaks
Technology has saved the day by making many things possible in today’s world. And yet, we all know that excessive screen use can disrupt the delicate balance of our body and mind. Consciously take breaks from screen for at least 1-2 hours during the waking hours. It could be for some time soon after waking up and during your meal times or an hour before hitting the bed and your time with family or exercise time.
7. Socialise and nurture harmonious interactions
We humans have a strong need to feel emotionally connected with others, irrespective of our gender, class or age. While following the physical distancing rules, make sure that you have relaxing chats with friends, family or even colleagues on a regular basis; chats that go beyond the transactional interactions. Regular audio or video calls with close friends or a sibling or a grown-up child, who resides in a different city or engaging in planned catch up sessions with friends can help fulfil the much-needed connection.
Allow yourself to be more relaxed in your interaction with colleagues. Setting the intention to not get upset with unplanned events & unpleasant interactions, at the start of each day, can set you up for success and making a choice to pause and breathe deeply each time you notice feeling stressed, can do wonders for your mental well-being.