One year into the pandemic: Let’s talk about well-being in the workplace
In the wake of the pandemic, and the critically important social distancing that followed, we’re starting to see the effects on our psychological well-being. In this article, we share insights, tips and advice on how to best tackle some of the challenges that come with working from home.
It’s hard to fathom that almost a year has passed while in the grip of an ongoing pandemic. There have been huge changes to our daily habits, and many work-related factors have changed a lot too.
We know how to take care of our physical health, but how do we care for our psychological well-being? Particularly in these times, when our daily lives have changed so much. How has social distancing and working from home really affected us? Are you feeling it?
With the new normal of working and living at home, not everyone has the same opportunities for rest, socializing or receiving professional feedback. A big family can make recovery harder, while a single household might struggle with the social aspects.
Working from home during social distancing affects our mental health for obvious reasons—especially as time goes on.
Some common and entirely natural feelings you might experience include:
- Feeling alone or isolated—socially or professionally
- Finding it hard to switch off from work or conclude the working day
- Wavering motivation
- Feeling the weight of the workload and finding it hard to prioritize tasks
- Feeling unsure about your performance
Although the new normal may be challenging, it doesn’t need to affect your well-being. There are things you can do to feel better and tools you can use to handle the challenges. Let’s talk about daily routines!
Do you spread your working hours out over the day rather than having a set 8-hour period allocated for work? Have you noticed that you no longer have that “after work” feeling? You don’t need to be a workplace psychologist to understand why, or to be able to spell out the advantages of making a distinction between work and leisure time. From a psychological perspective, it’s important to clearly distinguish the space you associate with work and the space you associate with leisure. For example, it might be a good idea to create an area in your home dedicated to work, that you clear up or close the door to at the end of the day. It can also help to set a time of day when you stop working, switch off and put the computer away to clearly signify the switch to leisure time.
Do you sleep in for an extra 30 minutes rather than get ready for the day? Do you tell yourself that “it doesn’t matter, because I haven’t got any meetings today”? Again, although that might feel liberating to begin with, or in the moment, it can also become a vicious circle. Without daily routines (which might feel tiresome or unnecessary in the moment), that rewarding feeling when the time comes to leave work with a clear conscience, like at the weekend, doesn’t materialize.
Because spontaneous meetings with colleagues don’t happen when you’re working from home, we need to be proactive. For example, try scheduling a quick coffee during the day with your team or a colleague you like. Staying in touch with your colleagues can reduce stress and relieve loneliness during the working day. Another tip is to try to keep day-to-day conversations with colleagues going in the team chat. You can share spontaneous thoughts, reflections or events there—this could be anything from a professional question to a picture of your children’s Christmas play.
Working towards clear goals, deadlines and creating to-do lists can increase your motivation and help you prioritize tasks. Not sure where to begin? Brainstorm with your line manager and ask them to help you define the value of different tasks. If you’re struggling to retain your focus when the dishes are calling you from the sink or notifications light up your phone, try working in intervals according to the Pomodoro method, for example.
When we’re at home, the day tends to rush by and it’s even more important to schedule regular breaks to give yourself a chance to recover. Take the opportunity to go out for a walk in the daylight or as a way of concluding the working day. Reflecting on the day is another tool that has been shown to improve well-being. By reflecting on what you’ve done during the day, what was especially good and what you should focus on tomorrow, can reduce stress and performance anxiety.
Are you feeling unwell?
In an emergency, always call 112. If you’re feeling unwell, down or experiencing similar psychological symptoms, turn to your regional healthcare provider. There is always help available.