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  • Writer's pictureHilary Hofstetter, M.S.

Working from Home without Losing your Mind

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many of us have been forced to learn to adjust our work and personal lives to working from home.

Working in pajamas (at least from the waist down) with your only human interaction for the day being chat messages and video calls; remote working can be challenging and incredibly freeing at the same time. The flexibility to take a walk to clear your mind, do a load of laundry or make a quick trip to the pharmacy can feel liberating – to some extent.

In October of 2019, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., the American Psychological Association published data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that 16% of the total workforce worked remotely at least part of the time. It is estimated that due to COVID-19, 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home by the end of 2021. Studies have shown that 56% of the U.S. workforce currently holds a job that is compatible with remote work, so a new normal is emerging.

In a 2015 study of 273 teleworkers, researchers found that overall, telecommuting increased job satisfaction, performance and feelings of commitment to an organization among employees. People who teleworked also tended to experience less work stress or exhaustion.

On the flip side, feelings of social isolation and a clouding of work-family boundaries are significant challenges for remote employees. Teleworkers operating from a home office lack the physical and psychological separation between these two domains. Family and social obligations can easily bleed over into work hours. More often, studies show, teleworkers’ professional obligations tend to extend beyond the traditional workday, interrupting family time and preventing teleworkers from ever truly disconnecting. A 2013 Gallop pool found that teleworkers log an extra four hours per week on average compared with their counterparts in the office. Answered an email late at night is a typical way for remote employees to demonstrate their commitment to their job. Experts say that without firm boundaries, employees can experience exhaustion and burnout and that such “overwork” without limits should be discouraged by managers and organizations.

For now, we all need to put extra efforts towards communicating regularly to ensure that the social isolation, anxiety and decreased feelings of camaraderie are mitigated as much as possible. A weekly or bi-weekly teleconference between colleagues (and friends and family) to just say hello to one another and touch base can improve our mental health through this challenging time.

We all have to acknowledge that this is not a “normal” time. Trying to pretend that simply shifting our work from the office to home is not a big deal is not reasonable. Particularly when our kids, spouse, roommates, etc. are all vying for their own space and attention. While we often joke about binge-eating or drinking to manage the stress, it’s incredibly important to foster, and increase healthy habits. Get some exercise and fresh air if you can, eat healthy and stay hydrated. Avoid too much sugar. Avoid alcohol, a depressant that can make you feel worse, and drug use, which can increase the volatility of your mood and potentially put you at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 (read our earlier BLOG). We all must learn to be good stewards of our physical and mental health – now more than ever. Stay healthy and stay well!

Oh….and wash your hands!

Call our office to schedule a telehealth meeting with one of our licensed therapists today! Many insurers have eliminated co-payments for telehealth visits. Call or email our office to check on your insurance coverage. You deserve it!

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