Managing Mental Health While Working at Home

Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
A home office setup representing mental health challenges of working from home
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With all of the challenges posed so far this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest has been the change to working from home for many people. While some workers, including those in essential services, must still report to the workplace on a regular basis, thousands of employees have been working remotely for several months now. While remote working may have provided a respite from office wear and long commutes at first, the isolation can have a significant effect on a person’s mental health over time. This is even more of a consideration for those who were already dealing with mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. Below, we will provide an overview of how employees working from home can take steps to safeguard their mental health, especially now as the weather is turning colder and the days are getting shorter.

Structuring Your Workday

When working from home, it is easy to allow the line between the workday and personal time to blur or disappear altogether. While it is easier to restrict time in the office when commuting between work and home, if you’ve been working on the couch all afternoon, it may become more difficult to log off after dinner. Experts suggest that employees keep a regular schedule, just like they would have done at the office, to ensure they’re taking time away from work in order to recharge, make time for family, and continue doing things they enjoy outside of work. We schedule things like meetings, deadlines and emails all the time, but it is just as important to book time for breaks, meals and regular self-care.

In addition to maintaining a balanced schedule, employees should also make an effort to stay connected to people at work. This may seem like something you’re already doing, especially if you’re in Zoom meetings or on work calls on a daily basis. However, participating in a meeting with 10 people is not the same as connecting with a trusted colleague, just as you would have done at the office. When you don’t have regular check-ins with colleagues, it can create an additional sense of isolation and anxiety for many. Choose one or two people at work who can act as support, and make a point to check in with them by phone, video conference or even email on a regular basis.

Overall Habits for Health and Wellbeing

Stay Physically Active

It’s easy to become sedentary when working from home. You can go straight from bed to your desk or couch, and even avoid leaving home for days at a time. However, it’s important to regularly keep your body moving, by walking around inside, stretching, or going for a walk or run outside. Not only does this benefit the body physically but experts say it can have a significant mental health benefit as well.

Be Diligent about Hygiene

Maintaining regular hygiene routines will not only help to limit your chances of infection, but it will also help you maintain a sense of normalcy and schedule. Working from home is not a time to let your regular practices slide.

Limit Media Consumption

Media can be a large source of stress and distraction for many, especially during times of uncertainty. While it is important to stay connected and aware, it is not healthy to remain tethered to social media all day long. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommends choosing a select few trusted sources of information and checking in with them on a scheduled, limited, basis.

Keep on Top of Any Existing Mental Health Concerns

If you are dealing with an existing condition, such as anxiety or depression, it is extremely important to maintain your regular practices for managing your condition. The APA recommends the following to ensure proper care while working from home:

  • Maintain your regular medication and treatment schedule. Keep on top of your medication, ensure you have sufficient refills, and maintain therapy sessions, remotely if necessary.
  • Recognize and eliminate triggers or stressors if possible. While you may not be able to avoid stressful situations altogether, staying aware of how you’re feeling and dealing with any setbacks will be key to maintaining your mental wellbeing.
  • Engage your support network. Just because you are working at home does not mean you should disengage from contact with friends, family, and medical professionals. In fact, regular contact with those who help you feel supported will become even more important. Keep in contact with those people who help you feel better, and most importantly, reach out if you ever feel like you’re becoming overwhelmed.

If you have questions about your rights as an employee with respect to disability leave or workplace accommodations for mental health concerns, contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We will ensure you understand your rights and help you determine whether you may have a claim due to a violation by your employer. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation.