Are You Suffering Work From Home Anxiety?
7 Tips for Successful Home Working and a Great Work Life Balance.
Whether you are self employed working from home or one of the millions of temporary/permanent employees still working at home from furlough, one thing is clear, home working isn’t easy and work from home anxiety can quickly take hold.
As much as we’d like to say we don’t need the reassurance of office life, comradery and politics, most of us do.
It’s only natural to want to know you’re doing well or compare yourself to others, and when you are isolated from your routine environment – work at home anxiety can easily set in and dominate your day to day thoughts.
You can take control…
If like thousands of other home workers, you may be struggling with anxiety about your work performance and security. If that is the case one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take some time and acknowledge that it’s just your current situation causing these feelings of fear and doubt.
You are where you are with it. You are not alone, and you can take control of your thoughts and circumstances. Even make it work to your benefit.
It’s important to recognise that feelings of anxiety and possible overwhelm in this situation are entirely normal as you have no past experience of this situation to reference or fall back on.
So with that, here are some great tips (courtesy of the NHS-Every Mind Matters campaign) for balancing your home/work life situation, taking control of your mental well being, and recognising that your are doing a great job despite your reservations.
Work From Home Anxiety – 7-Top Tips to Take Control
1- Get a routine and stick to it
You had a routine going into your workplace everyday and you stuck to it regardless. So why change now?
Without a routine and schedule, the lines between work and personal time can get blurred and become stressful.
At night try to retire at the same time as you did when ‘going to work’, and keep in mind that you are still ‘going to work’, and being paid to ‘go to work’. Follow your normal sleep and work patterns if you can, and stay consistent.
Get up at the same time, eat breakfast and get out of your pyjamas. A great tip from the Every Mind Matters team is to try and schedule in your “commute time” before logging on. Spend it exercising, reading, doing some yoga, mindfulness exercises, or even going for a walk like you are travelling to work!
Most importantly, when your workday stops, stop working. Shut down, stop checking emails and focus on your home life.
Great entreprenurial advice I once heard was:
“At work, work. At play, play” – “Don’t play at work, and don’t work at play”Jim Rohn
Solid advice for keeping work and home separate.
2. Create a dedicated workspace and stick to it.
Where possible, try to set out a quiet zone away from other people, the television or other distractions. Even the kitchen is a distraction area where it’s too easy to snack and make drinks all the time.
Get everything you need in one place before you start work – chargers, pens, paper and anything else – and shut the door if you can. Even in a small or shared space try to designate an area for work.
Lastly, get comfortable and get in the zone. While it might be tempting to sit on the sofa, it’s much better to sit at a desk or table. Again, you are technically ‘at work’. You wouldn’t sit on a sofa at work with your laptop (unless you worked for Google of course).
3. Set boundaries with other household members and visitors.
The old joke about going to work for a rest has never sounded more true.
You can be more flexible when working from home, but it can also be difficult if there are other distractions to deal with. Children at home are a big distraction as they naturally want to spend time with you.
Other things can be a huge source of distraction such as pets wanting attention, well meaning friends and family calling in for a chat, even home deliveries.
All of this can become a strain on your concentration and mental wellbeing, especially if you’ve been used to being super organised at work and having the luxury of blocking out time to dedicate to specific projects.
It’s also important to share your schedule and be transparent and open about your needs and expectations of working from home.
Have a discussion with family, and remind friends you are still at work. After all, they wouldn’t have dreamed of popping into your workplace, flopping down on a comfy chair and expecting you to put the kettle on.
Remind them that you still have work to do and need quiet time to do it.
Lastly, set work boundaries. Log off when the work day is over, put your laptop away, close the door (or imaginary door) on your workspace, and enjoy time with family at home.
Remember. “Don’t play at work, and don’t work at play.”
4. Schedule Break Times.
Making time for breaks is super important to help manage feelings of stress and anxiety.
Make time for a lunch break where you take yourself away from the screen and prepare something nice.
In fact, this is one of the perks of home working. You have your own kitchen at hand. Therefore, you can make yourself a nice healthy lunch and go and sit in the garden or outdoor space, weather permitting.
As well as the benefit of saving on the extra calories consumed from pre-packed food and a double mocha latte whatever, just think of the money saved on a daily basis!
Take regular screen breaks. Stretch, jump about, do 10 minutes yoga. Nobobody is there to see you do it, and it can make you feel so much more focused when you return. Just 5 to 10 minutes of short breaks each hour can really help your productivity and feelings of wellness.
Where possible, spend your break time outdoors. Green space is great for your mental health. If this can include some light exercise such as a bike ride, walk, or gentle run, even better.
5. Stay connected with your colleagues.
Clearly, working from home has many benefits, but you may also feel more isolated. There are lots of ways to stay in touch with those who matter – boosting their mental wellbeing as well as your own.
Human interaction matters. In the office or out and about we socialise and interact often without thinking about it. So when working from home, try to adopt some of the old ways of communication such as using the telephone instead of emailing.
Even new technology now has its benefits. The once dreaded office video conference call can now be a lifeline to keeping in touch and having face-to-face interaction.
If you’re struggling with working at home, speak to your colleagues or manager about your concerns, and remember your colleagues probably feel the same as you. Ask how they’re doing and whether there are ways you can support each other.
6. Think Longer Term.
You may be in this for the long haul. Business is still working out the changes brought about by the Pandemic, so think about ways you could improve how you work while at home.
The temptation initially may have been to set up a temporary space with temporary furnishings, but potentially this is where you may spend a third of your life, so make it work for you.
If you have a room in the house that’s only used occasionally by the family (such as a dining room used on a Sunday) then consider investing in that as your work space. Do you have an area that is warmer or has a window that lets in a lot of light, could you work there instead?
Try to explore how you work with others. Are there different ways to talk online or new software you could use? share your thoughts with your employer.
And remember, your employer has a duty to support you and provide what you reasonably require while working from home.
Health and Safety at work including duties such as the DSE regulations apply to home workers just as much as office workers, so don’t feel that you are out on a limb and forgotten just because you no longer commute to an office.
7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up. Be Kind.
The world has been through a situation that has been previously untested and things will not feel normal. It can’t feel normal as we have nothing to compare it to or reference back to.
Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that given the circumstances you might not be as productive as you usually would be.
That said, you don’t really know how productive you are being. If you’ve managed to set your boundaries and are free of the usual office politics, chitter-chatter, distractions, coffee machine negativity etc, then you may be super productive.
We can only compare ourselves to others, we can’t compare ourselves to ourselves.
Estimates of employee productivity at work is around 50% of what they are capable of. Nobody can be 100% productive, and even the most focussed are only capable of giving 70% to the job.
Be realistic about what you can achieve, especially given the circumstances, and relax when your work is done.
“At work, work. At play, play” – “Don’t play at work, and don’t work at play”
Finally, a great way to put your life into perspective is to take time to reflect on your current situation and feel gratitude for all the good things in your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily.
I promise you, writing down and focussing on all the amazing things you have and take for granted will shift your perspective immediately.
Information courtesy NHS Every Mind Matters
CPD APPROVED ONLINE AWARENESS TRAINING
Further reading on this subject.
Work related stress and stress management – The role of management in creating or managing stress in the workplace.
What is work related stress and anxiety – How to spot signs of stress in the workplace