A reframe: Work from home OR Living in the Office

A reframe: Work from home OR Living in the Office

Enabled by advances in technology, remote work has gained huge traction within the last decade. While few corporate leaders revel in their short-run success of forced virtual operating and relatively lower operational expenses, it’s not too far-fetched a concept that work from home (WFH) could possibly become our permanent reality, particularly since there’s no immediate cure for coronavirus in view.

Thus, with the continued pandemic the most important modification for nearly the whole workforce of the country has been the notion of working from home. Never has the world seen an exercise of this magnitude.

Although it seems like a sweet dream to imagine the length of your daily commute as your hallway, the workplace chair as your couch or bed and your snack drawer as your toasty kitchen, some like to work from home, others miss the professional operating area where the rhythm and pace of work is completely different. A workspace isn’t simply a physical area. It’s an area where we meet our friends, forge relationships, celebrate success, share stories over food, gossip, laugh, crib and sometimes cry.

With social distancing protocol in place around the world individuals are feeling more isolated than ever before. Although the aforementioned initiative is indispensable, the lack of a typical social interaction can contribute to elevated levels of loneliness, stress, anxiety and so on, thus giving a surge to deteriorating mental health.

Thus several people have reported experiencing high levels of uncertainty, worry and stress, while those with pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may find that these are being intensified by the current circumstances. Anyone who has dealt with a mental health disorder would know that not every day is the same.

And worrying about the future is anxiety’s favorite trigger.

Within a week of the start of the nationwide lockdown, the number of reported cases of Mental Illness in India rose by 20%, as shown in a study by the Indian Psychiatry Society. The explanations  vary from worry of job loss, unemployment, indebtedness, struggling to piece together money to pay bills, wage cuts and pre-existing psychological state conditions.

This  continuous onslaught of worry and insecurity is resulting in larger psychological state problems than before as much of what we are doing is unscripted, unknowable, and uncertain.

Fundamentally, it has now become a massive task to concentrate and complete tasks effectively during this turbulent period. For an employee working from home, not only does he/she have to deal with constant onslaught of work, dealing with the stress of wearing multiple hats at a time and vague commands from the boss but also have added responsibilities in the household. What makes things worse for some is the unavoidable reality of living in low connectivity areas and facing technological issues.

Disconnectivity from your co-workers and the rest of the world may make one feel lonely and isolated, which could further anxiety and feelings of self-doubt. Employees are left feeling less motivated and face difficulty in prioritizing their workload leading up to a bigger issue of feeling pressure to hustle 24/7. It’s not uncommon to find yourself trying to squeeze in work whenever possible but without time to disconnect you risk burning out.

Another problem faced by many is the uncertainty about their progress i.e whether the work that they are doing is okay.

Employees are in the midst of facing new and unique challenges that impact their mental health. For many employees this is their first time teleworking which presents its own challenges. There is a complete disruption to their normal routine. Employees may lack a structure in their day to day lives, including waking up late, eating at irregular intervals, loss of exercise and self care. With unending work and constant feeling of dissatisfaction one forgets to detach and find time for themselves.

Detachment is the act of mentally switching off from work during time off giving time to oneself to replenish mental energy and take a break from any and all kinds of work related thoughts. While the simple act of going home after work provides a chance to detach this clearly becomes more difficult when working remotely. Thus it is vital to actively maintain boundaries between work and non-work time.

Whilst such a trying time has proven to be detrimental to many, there are some measures which can help a person stay afloat in this sea of negativity :

How about a reframe for a better mental health to start with?

Instead of Working from Home …. can we say ” We are Living in the office”

  1. Being wary of the type of media and news consumption can help filter out misinformation.
  2. Set up a routine and structure to your workday: Set up a schedule, which includes phases of focused work and breaks at intervals. Atomic habits like deciding a start time and finish time as well as getting dressed in the morning and then changing into relaxed clothes in the evening can help minimize feelings of overwhelming pressure and set up a strong boundary between ‘work time’ and ‘home time’.
  3. Actively schedule analog breaks: Take regular breaks from all kinds of digital screens.Give your eyes, neck, shoulders, and back a much-needed rest!
  4. LEARN TO SAY “NO”: You’re human. Know your limitations and don’t extend beyond them. There’s only so much work you can do in a day. Be assertive yet courteous.
  5. If possible, don’t work from your bed: Studies have shown that working from home can lead to sleeping problems, especially for people who find it difficult to switch off from work. Working from your bed could lead to associating it to staying alert, active and productive.
  6. Set up a dedicated workspace: Find a comfortable spot in your home which should be as free from distractions as possible. Mentally and physically separate your home life from work life.
  7. Try to digital detox in the evening: Switch off all screens and try to spend more quality time with your family or pets. Spend time with yourself, read books, start a journal, water your plants, practice mindfulness.
  8. Stay connected with co-workers and managers by scheduling regular virtual and phone meetings
  9. Make time for your favourite people: Reach out to family and friends regularly! We all could use some support right now, after all, “we’re all in this together”
  10. Get moving: Dedicate some time to your body. Put on your favorite songs and sweat it out. It’ll leave you feeling much more energised.
  11. Do what you love: Consciously set up time in your day to practice what you enjoy. Be it painting, dancing, reading, singing ,writing or carving wood! Just do it. You deserve it.
  12. Recognize early indicators of depression and burnout: According to the Mayo Clinic angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration (even over small matters), loss of interest or happiness in previously pleasurable activities, sleep disturbances, tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort, increased cravings for food, agitation, and restlessness, trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things, unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches can be early indicators of depression.Look out for these signs. Depression isn’t just feeling down.
  13. Keep in touch with your emotions: Being in touch with our emotions, acknowledging them and understanding the roots is the first step towards managing them. This may be achieved by regular journal keeping, recording and analysing our thoughts.
  14. It’s okay to not be okay!: If you’re feeling low, confused or stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out to a counsellor. Talking to a certified counsellor over the phone provides relief to many!

“Work from home” or “Living in office” jobs can be challenging. It can turn usually optimistic and productive bees into irritable toads. So before you hit rock bottom learn to spot signs of declining mental health and take action.

Don’t worry, you’re never alone. And tomorrow is always a fresh start.

Author : Janhavi Kapoor, Intern, Boma India

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