If you’d been told in January 2020 that you’d be able to work from home for years on end it might have sounded like a dream. The reality, of course, is not as easy as it seems. Staying motivated, retaining work-life balance and video conference etiquette are just some of the challenges. But science is here to help.
Even before quarantines and social distancing measures became the norm, researchers debated what remote working does to your mental health and productivity. Here are some tips from leading psychologists on how best to thrive in the shadow of COVID-19.
Dress for the job you still have:
Fashion doesn’t really exist when the world is remote. However, psychologists recommend you get dressed for work rather than joining those video calls in your PJs. More than just keeping up appearances, it helps to put your brain in work mode.
Structure Your Day Like Normal:
Routine and structure are crucial to making the quarantine period tolerable. Routine starts with your sleep. Resist the urge to hit the snooze button. In what was described as the largest sleep study ever conducted, researchers at Canada’s Western University found that oversleeping can dampen your cognitive function just like sleep deprivation can.
Do something positive with the time you saved from your commute, such as cooking a healthy lunch or going for a jog.
Protect your mental health:
As if a lethal pandemic wasn’t enough to trigger anxiety and depression, research suggests that remote workers can also be prone to bouts of poor mental health. A UN report in 2017 found that remote workers are more likely to experience high stress levels than office workers: emails are misinterpreted, work bleeds into family life and remote workers often clock more hours.
As well as switching off the laptop at the end of the day, make sure you do pleasurable activities for mood elevation, says Daniels. “If you feel yourself becoming anxious, switch to exercise, reading, listening to podcasts, creative pursuits, intellectual pursuits.”
Do what you can to physically separate your working space from your living space. This is especially important if you have kids at home. Even the shortest distraction can kill your productivity. Research at Michigan State University found that a three-second interruption can double the number of mistakes you make in your work as your attention gets dragged away to something else.
Work out to work well:
In 2019, the Journal of Human Sport And Exercise reported on a 12-week exercise program conducted in a Greek prison. In line with all the existing evidence, it found that participating inmates felt a greater sense of self-esteem and quality of life than those who didn’t take part.
Learn something new:
Work is likely to slow down for many people during the pandemic but this in itself can create an opportunity. “Think about what else you can do during this period to develop another line to your work,” says Cooper. “Maybe an IT course, maybe a language, do something to keep yourself cognitively active. You might never get this kind of window to learn something again. Use it.”
As well as bolstering your long-term employability, lifelong learning is proven to improve happiness as well as cognitive traits like memory. And the literature is full of tips to help you learn more effectively.
Here at Corken and Company we want our clients to have all the tools necessary to thrive. Working from home might continue to be a common trend. We hope these tips help keep you and your family healthy!