The COVID-19 pandemic has created a ‘new work normal’ for many of us. While around 7% of Americans worked from home regularly before the pandemic, now 33-50% regularly work from home. Working remotely seems great on the surface, as we get to avoid lengthy morning routines (especially if you’re also getting other family members ready for the day), long commutes, and common office distractions, like the cubemate who talks loudly on the phone. However, many of us have found that when those lines of separation between work, family time, and relaxation are blurred, it can actually lead to more stress.
Why is this? Mental health professionals say that things like lack of social contact with others, overworking, and loss of good sleep and eating habits - all of which can happen when we work from home - contribute to a more stressful work experience. They advise that in order to work smarter, and to reduce the chances of mental health issues like anxiety and depression, we should adopt a set of boundaries and routines when working remotely.
Tips to maintain a healthy work-life balance while working from home
The most important tip is to separate “work” and “life”. This means both dedicating a physical space to do your work that isn’t your bedroom, and separating your work and home activities throughout the day. For example, it can be tempting to use the time between meetings to do the dishes or the laundry, but this can ultimately lead to burnout.
Other tips include:
Establishing a routine. Routines and schedules help us feel a sense of control - so when work routines are significantly altered, it can feel like we don’t know where to begin or how to be productive. Creating a new schedule can be a good way to regain that sense of control. Start with a robust morning routine – take a shower, meditate, get dressed, etc. - before logging on for the day. And just like before the pandemic, it pays to remain flexible, as sometimes routines can change.
Taking regular breaks. In a normal in-office workday, you probably would have stopped to chat with a coworker, gotten up to refill your coffee or tea, or left the office for lunch. When you’re working from home it can be more difficult to find those break times. So try to schedule breaks on your calendar and hold yourself accountable to those times. During a break, you could go for a quick walk, play with your dog, or meditate if you are so inclined. By regularly removing yourself from the work environment for 10 or 15 minutes, you’ll feel refreshed and productive instead of feeling exhausted and unable to focus.
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule. Even if you don’t have a meeting until 10am, get up on time anyway. Resist the urge to binge-watch Netflix late at night. The same wake and bedtimes are critical to self-care because they contribute to better overall sleep quality. Otherwise, you may find yourself feeling groggy during the day, or with fluctuations in energy. (And if that happens, it's much more productive to go outside and take a brief, brisk walk instead of taking a nap.)
Eating healthy food. Stay hydrated throughout the day by filling up a water bottle and keeping it next to you at your desk. Resist the urge to snack all day long - it's so easy to keep running to the fridge - especially if you are stressed. But if you're particularly challenged by this, consider making your lunch in advance, just as you would have for the office. And be sure to have lots of healthy snacks and less junk food in the house.
Having a clock-out time. It’s very easy when you work from home to keep working into the evening - to “just answer an email or two to get caught up”. But that can lead to burnout over time. To be as effective as possible at your job, know when to start and to quit for the day. Set your ‘do not disturb’ notifications between 5pm and 8am for example. Resist the urge to check email in the evening and on weekends. Turn off the sound on your phone or laptop so you don't hear the email and message notifications as they come in.
Making an appointment for “you time”. Self-care isn’t just about long baths and glasses of wine. It means prioritizing the things that you love - whether that’s reading, hiking, visiting with friends, or whatever makes you feel happy and relaxed. It's about finding healthy ways to comfort yourself, setting priorities, staying connected, and creating structure. In this way, you build a stronger foundation for yourself and your career.
If you or someone you love shows signs of too much stress or anxiety, consider consulting a behavioral health professional
If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today! If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here.