- Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
- If you’re dreading working from home for the foreseeable future, Morin says there are ways you can emotionally and mentally prepare yourself moving forward.
- Set clear boundaries between work and off hours, whether that’s working from a designated office space or putting on real work clothes until you log off.
- Take advantage of work from home perks, like loading your laundry machine before that mid-afternoon meeting, but also pay attention to your mental health, and do your best to be flexible and stay positive when you run into challenges.
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When the pandemic caused many people to work remotely, the shift initially seemed temporary. But for some, telecommuting has now become a long-term (if not permanent) situation.
And while working from home might be a dream come true for some people, the thought of working from the couch on an ongoing basis feels more like a nightmare for others.
Your mindset about remote work will play a major role in how happy you’ll be working from home. A negative attitude will probably guarantee a fairly dismal experience.
Fortunately, if you find yourself grumbling about trying to turn your living room into an office, there are some things you can do to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to work from home for the long-term (even if it’s not your ideal work situation).
1. Create a healthy workspace
Working from bed in your pajamas might sound fun at first. But after a few weeks, you’ll likely develop a variety of aches and pains – both emotional and physical.
To make this work, you are going to need a healthy workspace. For some, this could mean a desk in the corner (along with a set of noise-cancelling headphones). For others, a healthy workspace might be a secluded office with natural sunlight.
Think about how you can maintain good posture (to prevent back pain) and how you can create a space that evokes a positive mood and helps you be productive.
You’re likely to spend many of your waking hours working, so it’s important to be healthy while you do it.
2. Decide how you’ll balance work life and home life
Whether your grandmother calls you throughout the day now that she thinks you’re unemployed, or you find yourself responding to emails while watching late-night television, it’s important to find ways to balance work life with home life when everything happens under the same roof.
You may find the need to avoid answering personal calls during work hours as a way to stay productive. Or you might want to physically hide your laptop and those printed reports in the evenings so as not to look at things that remind you of work.
And while there’s nothing wrong with a little crossover action (like doing laundry while you type), it’s important to create strategies that help you feel your best. What works for you might be a little different than what works for others. So experiment with strategies that help you feel as though you’re working hard enough while also enjoying your life outside of work.
3. Pay attention to your emotional state
Do you feel bored when you’re working from home? Are you lonely? Anxious?
Research shows that naming your feelings can reduce the intensity and duration of them. So just telling yourself, “I feel embarrassed right now,” can help you start to feel a little better.
Once you label your emotions, you also become more aware of how you cope with these feelings. Do you snack a lot when bored? Do you spend more time on social media when lonely? Do you procrastinate when anxious?
If so, work on finding healthier coping skills to deal with these feelings. Writing in a gratitude journal, engaging in a hobby, and doing some deep breathing could help you manage emotions without introducing new problems into your life.
4. Establish some work-from-home guidelines
Self-awareness is key to creating your own set of guidelines that work best for you. Do you need some structure in your workday, like self-imposed work hours? Are you more productive when you put on work clothes (even though no one sees you)?
Create guidelines for yourself – sort of like a set of company policies that you get to write just for you. Following a few simple guidelines can create an environment that will help you thrive when working from home.
5. Take advantage of the benefits
Even if you don’t love the idea of working from home, you can still take full advantage of the benefits.
Whether it means you get to work from your patio, or you get to wear pajama pants while you attend virtual meetings, remote work can give you opportunities you won’t get at the office. Take advantage of these benefits whenever you can.
6. Prepare for the obstacles
No matter how much you enjoy working from home, there will be obstacles – like technical glitches or screaming kids in the background.
Take steps to prepare for the likely obstacles. And resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to encounter the occasional strange situation – like a neighbour knocking on the door in the middle of an important business meeting.
Fortunately, since so many are in the same situation right now, most people (including bosses) understand the challenges that come with working from home. So stay flexible as problems are bound to happen from time to time. And stay positive so you can make the best of your situation.
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