By Liz Maines, PhD
Many of us find ourselves in the unusual situation of working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a privilege – our hearts go out to those who have lost employment, or whose jobs require them to report in person. Even so, working from home, for those who have never done it, can be a blessing and a curse. Here are a few tips on how to manage working from home – and how to stay mentally and emotionally healthy in the process.
Set a Structure
- Make sure you carve out space in your home, free from distractions, to do your work. For example, don’t sit on the couch in front of the T.V. with the kids. You need a quiet, uninterrupted space, to mimic an office.
- Set a start time and an end time for your workday and stick to it. Make sure to stop and take breaks, such as creating a set lunchtime.
- Go “home” at night by turning off work electronics or apps.
Be Mindful of Distractions
- If you have children, this adds a special set of challenges. Homeschooling or keeping children occupied throughout the day while working can be a monumental task. Find a routine that works for you and be flexible with your expectations for your kids and yourself. Have activities planned for the kids and show them on the clock so they know when to check in with you (if possible). Take your breaks and eat a snack with them or go outside for a short walk. Then get back to work.
- Don’t turn on other electronics such as the T.V. (unless it’s work-related). Unplug from the news of the day – especially the COVID-19 news. Silence your personal cell phone and any notifications.
- If you have pets, walk or play with them before the workday begins. They tend to be less demanding of your time if you do this.
- If friends call you, tell them that you will call them back after the workday.
- Communicate with your spouse, roommates, or kids about your planned work habits and when you plan to “be home.”
Dress for Work
- Although it sounds nice to work in your pajamas, it’s best to get ready for work. Engage in your “normal” work routine like taking a shower, dressing for work, and eating breakfast.
Make a Checklist
- Allot time each morning to think through your tasks for the day. During this reflection time, focus on:
- Identifying and ranking your priorities for work.
- Listing your deadlines so you can keep track.
- Making goals for yourself.
- Scheduling your break times too, so you make sure to take them (and have something to look forward to!).
Reduce Social Isolation – Virtually
- Check in with your coworkers from time to time to see how they are doing and/or what they are working on.
- Zoom or Skype with family or friends to stay connected once your workday ends.
- Although we are practicing social distancing, if possible, engage electronically in an activity you might ordinarily do in person. For example, have a virtual dinner party or take a class via Zoom.
- I know its old-fashioned, but pick up the phone and call someone to say hello.
Develop Good Self-Care
- Work out at home (using the recommended exercises from SAA’s “Back In Action, Again” video, which are free to the public through the end of June). Do some stretching, take walks, try yoga, or do some cardio if you can. This is good for managing spondyloarthritis during normal times, anyway.
- Watch out for snacking while working. It’s best to eat at regular mealtimes to avoid overeating all day.
- Get good sleep and turn off the electronics at night. Maintain a healthy sleep pattern.
- In the morning before you get up or at night before you go to sleep, think about what you are thankful for – maybe it’s good health, your partner and/or children, your job, or good friends. The more you do this, the more positive you will become.
- Turn off the 24-hour news cycle. Set limits on when and how much news you will consume.
We can become so distracted by the pandemic or other scary things in the world that we forget about taking care of ourselves and each other. Be kind to one another and reach out. Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a long time and see how they are doing. Pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor. Despite the losses, serious illnesses, and unknowns of this pandemic, it has also united us in surprising ways. We have already begun to put our differences aside to care for one another. What a blessing that is.