Remote Work Mental Health

2020-03-11

As of today, 11th of March 2020, an increasing number of companies have decided to require people to work from home if possible to contain the spread of COVID-19. For many this is a new mode of working that can feel strange and unfamiliar.

I've worked remotely over longer periods of time before when I was a freelancer and it wasn't always easy. I'm not a good remote worker, I get distracted easily, I forget to eat lunch and only notice when my blood sugar level plummets in the afternoon, my sleep often got messed up, and so on.

So, I want to share a few basics that helped me maintain my mental (and overall) health during remote work.

  1. Keep up your routines.

    It's easy to slip into a mode where you start working before you even get out of your pyjamas or finish a basic bathroom morning routine. This blurs the line between work and everything else, especially now that people are also encouraged to stay home and avoid social activities. Set your alarm as usual. If you usually have a commute, give yourself that time for extra sleep. Then do at least a basic routine. Take a shower, do your hair, shave, put on make-up, whatever you usually do. Cutting yourself some slack is fine but keep up a basic level.

  2. Don't work in your bed

    If possible, don't work in the same spot where you sleep. The same goes for other "free time" spots, like maybe your couch. Having clear boundaries between those spaces helps with separating work from everything else. Otherwise you might find yourself in bed, almost ready to go to sleep but your laptop is right there and you could just write that one email … but you shouldn't.

  3. Keep the place clean.

    When usually everyone in your household leaves during the day, the added cleaning that staying at home brings with it can be unexpected. In your company's office there's often a cleaning crew that you may never even see because they work after you call it a day. At home you have to do that yourself. It's surpising how quickly your nice appartment can turn into a mess if you spend 24 hours a day in there.

  4. Set timers/reminders for meals

    At an office there's usually group of people who go to lunch together or there might even be catering at the office. There's some intuitive sense of when "lunch time" is. When working from home, maybe even as the only person in the household, you should keep up your usual eating schedule. If you have a hard time with that, set alarms, calender events, etc to help you.

  5. Clock out

    When you're all by yourself and especially if your team is spread over different timezones, it's easy to forget when to call it a day. While you're at an office you usually notice when everybody starts going home so you just go too. Well, you are already home but you still need to stop working. Keep reasonable "office hours", mark them in your calendar if that helps you.

  6. Get some air

    Now, this one can be tricky. With the current situation, going outside more than necessary is maybe not the best idea. The whole point of staying at home during this disease outbreak is to isolate yourself and slow the spread of the virus. But at least open a window once per day to get some fresh air in. It really helps. After all you're using way more of the oxygen in your appartment now.