Maintain Your Mental Health While Working Remotely

 

Q: After working all of my adult life in a regular office job with regular hours, I have accepted a new position working remotely from home.   I’ll have occasional in-person meetings with other remote colleagues, but I’d say 95% of the time I’ll be on my own.

Since my kids are grown and my spouse has a regular job, I’m a little worried about going from seeing and interacting with people all day every day to being completely on my own.

But, working remotely is no longer rare, so I’m sure I’m not the only one making this transition. Do you have any tips or best practices?

A: Yes, the working remotely trend is not slowing down, in fact, it’s increasing. According to flexjobs.com in 2020, there were 4.7 million remote workers in the US. That’s 3.4 percent of the population.

There are many tips out there about how to maintain your productivity while working from home –have a regular schedule, make a designated workspace, and don’t mix work/life tasks. But, what doesn’t get much attention is the isolating psychological side effects of not having people around us.

It turns out that those little things that were annoying –interruptions, overhearing other’s conversation, interacting with people in the break room— all those were actually good for one’s mental health. We are social animals and need human interaction. What used to happen spontaneously and naturally can’t happen at home, but it can still happen. It just takes planning. Here are some tips:

DAILY – Take advantage of the ease of video conferencing to plan the day or just say hello to someone on your team. Whether you use Zoom, FB Facetime or other, it’s healthy to “see” someone and be “seen” by someone.

WEEKLY – Schedule lunch or coffee with different colleagues, either one-on-one or with a group, at least once a week. Preferably on the same day of the week. That way you know every “Tuesday” you have lunch plans with somebody and have to make yourself presentable.

MONTHLY – Plan a recurring lunch date with the same person.  I had several wonderful work friendships when I left the workforce. Working remotely is tough on friendships and relationships and many of those relationships didn’t survive. We slowly lost touch and saw each other less and less. If you currently have friendships or relationships you value, then schedule a monthly lunch for the next 10 months.

It IS possible to continue to have great relationships and friendships after you start to work remotely, and even make new ones. But it DOES take a deliberate effort.

Enjoy the bunny slippers.

Originally published on the HR Box blog.

 

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