Working From Home Affects Health and Wellness
By The Montridge Advisory Group Team
This article is written by the Montridge Advisory Group team. Located in British Columbia, Montridge Advisory Group is your partner in employee benefits, group retirement, and executive solutions.
In mid-March, many employees found themselves suddenly working from home. They had little notice and time to prepare for the change in environment. Offices were quickly assembled. Coffee tables became desks, webcams, headsets, mice and keyboards were purchased in a hurry.
For many employees, this is their first time working from home. Though they may enjoy short commute times—the journey from bed to office is typically far shorter than the drive to work—and the freedom that comes with having control over their environment, they still may need help adapting to their new situation. And like any new experience, it can be hard to figure out what works for them. Some struggle to focus when the couch and television are a few steps away. Others find it hard to draw that clear work-life boundary when the only difference between being at work and not is the closing of a laptop.
This is not an ordinary remote working situation either. Schools, gym, coffee shops; many of the small pleasures that make remote work enjoyable are not available to us right now. Parents may find that they’re working two jobs: as an employee and caretaker of children unable to go to school. It’s no surprise that some employees have found remote work to be taking a toll on their health and wellness.
In this blog you’ll learn about how you can create barriers between job and home, how to stay connected with your co-workers and ways to stay focused (even when the TV is in the same room).
Simulate a Commute To and From Work
The great benefit of simulating your commute is that it can be as pleasant and short as you want. It doesn’t have to involve sitting frustrated in your car for half an hour. With spring well in swing and the sunny days beginning to out number the rainy ones, going for a short walk through your community, perhaps with a cup of coffee and podcast, can help shift your mentality from enjoying a lazy morning at home, to having a productive day at the office. More than a mentality shift, going for a walk, jog, run, or drive helps get the blood flowing and heart pumping, which often improves mood and outlook.
Similarly, it can be difficult to disengage from a day’s work when quitting time strikes. The temptation to send that last email or put the finishing touches on a project is much stronger when working from home than when you’re at the office. Many employees find the transition from work to leisure unsatisfying when working from home. A primary reason for that is the difference is often so minor that the brain hardly recognizes it. That’s why getting out of the house, if only for a few moments, can be a great benefit. It gives your mind a transition period to finish thinking about work and plan out the next day. When you get back home, you’ll have had a period of decompression and can now sit back and relax for the evening.
Host and Attend Virtual Happy Hours
Another problem challenging us is the disconnect we feel from our fellow co-workers. Over the course of months and years in collaboration, we form close friendships with our co-workers and the sudden shift from regular interaction to the occasional Zoom meeting can be both jarring and disheartening. Employees can feel a disconnect from the rest of their team and form the impression that they are working in isolation, completing tasks separate from the whole.
One way to bring back that sense of community is to block off periods of time where employees can get together and simply chat. Talk about what you’ve been doing at home, what new hobbies you’re developing, books you’ve read, and TV shows you’ve watched.
If not everyone is interested in the idea of talking in a group Zoom meeting, consider setting aside a bi-weekly games hour at the end of each week. Games like Boggle, Uno, Connect 4, and Scrabble can be played online and can be a fun way to connect with team members.
Invest in Headphones to Limit Distractions
Working from home promotes the opportunity for what Cal Newport calls deep work. Long periods of uninterrupted focus where we enter a flow-like state and complete work with high efficiency and quality. Theoretically, with no co-workers asking us questions or tapping us on the shoulder, working at home should make this state easier to achieve.
Some might be found this far from the truth. They’re trying to work while the TV plays in the background, kids sprint through the halls and the dishwasher runs at a preposterously high volume.
Frequently, the distractions we experience while working are auditory: The TV distracts us because we can hear it, not because we find daytime television endlessly captivating. Many of our problems can be solved by the purchase of headphones. A quality pair of noise-canceling headphones can be bought for under $200. For more budget options, consider looking at non-noise canceling over-ear headphones.
Avoid listening to music with lyrics (it causes the same problem that daytime television). Instead, listen to classical music, instrumentals, or soundscapes. Spotify and YouTube have multi-hour playlists with music designed to help people focus on their work.
Many employees are finding working from home to be a refreshing change of pace. However, others are struggling to set the proper boundaries, find time to focus on their work, and connect with their fellow co-workers. Simulating commutes to and from work, investing in headphones, and attending virtual hangouts with co-workers are just some of the ways you can improve your health and wellness relating to working remotely.