Remote work became the norm at the peak of the pandemic. Employers had to come up with an alternative working setup, and workers had to stay home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, work-from-home (WFH) entered the vernacular.
Now that the pandemic's virtually over, remote work remains the preferred working setup by many. And that's for obvious reasons. For starters, there's no need to go through the daily commute, which becomes excruciating on days of horrible traffic.
There's also the work-life balance made possible by remote working arrangements. You can, at least theoretically, work from a pristine island on a hammock with a cocktail nearby.
However, working remotely isn't all fun and games. The setup has its downsides, too. The most obvious is when the blues come knocking at your door. When you're isolated at home for most of the time, you become more susceptible to depression, no matter how much of an introvert you happen to be.
The good news is you can take steps to keep the blues at bay.
Tips for Staying Connected
The D-word smells isolation, like a dog smells fear. The more alone you are, the likelier you will feel the blues. That's why equipping yourself with a strong support system is a good idea. That support system should include your colleagues. After all, they share your professional priorities and will likely understand what you're going through career-wise.
Here's how to build camaraderie with your colleagues, even if you're all working remotely.
Clear communication becomes even more imperative when a team works remotely. From the get-go, team members should be encouraged to do their part to ensure that everyone's on the same page at all times. That's most critical for project completion. A poorly communicated project is bound to, at best, get delayed or, at worse, fail. Either way, it can affect you mentally as a team member.
Meanwhile, if everyone gets clear on what's expected of them and their expectations, too, then the project will move along from one hand to another seamlessly. In the end, everyone will be happy and fulfilled with their unique contribution to the project's development.
Communication for remote workers could mean responding to group chats or emails or participating in Zoom calls. Whichever method your team prefers, the important thing is utmost transparency. As they say, never sweep stuff under the rug. Approach subjects head-on, even the most difficult ones, like conflict between team members. Otherwise, these issues might fester and affect your mental well-being.
Working for an organization need not be a one-dimensional experience. It's not all about meeting deadlines and hitting targets.
It's also about contributing to the kind of culture the company's trying to foster. Perhaps that culture is one of harmony and camaraderie.
That initiative might be achievable through regular team-building activities. Even if you work remotely, it will help you to participate in those activities, whether virtual or otherwise, with genuine enthusiasm and team spirit. Who knows what that might do to your mental health?
Just because colleagues don't cross each other's paths in a real-world setting doesn't mean there's no employee conflict in a remote team. Working from home has its fair share of drama via snide remarks on group chats or passive-aggressive emails. These things can easily sap you of your emotional and psychological bandwidth. That is where setting boundaries come in handy.
Sure, there's no problem with becoming friends with people at work. But learn how to compartmentalize whatever personal relationship you share with a colleague.
For instance, if a colleague who happens to be a friend constantly delivers a poor-quality job that directly affects your work, voice out the problem and solve it as a professional. Or else, not only will your work suffer but your mental health as well.
Another integral aspect of boundary setting amid a work-from-home setup is routine maintenance. Do not let your work command your daily life from sun up to sun down. Take breaks in between tasks. When it's your time off work, have those work email notifications off.
Tips for Staying Engaged
Burnout is real. It's not some made-up scenario used as an excuse by an employee to avoid work. It can happen to anyone, even to a company's star employee.
Whether you've experienced burnout before or you're one of the lucky few who has yet to encounter it, it's crucial to stay wary. One way to do that is by keeping yourself as engaged with your professional duties as possible. Here are some tools you can use to ensure that's the case.
Collaboration and Communication Tools
If you work as a remote employee, whether as a direct hire or part of a team assembled by an employee of record, chances are someone else has already taken care of this prerequisite on your behalf. Your team likely uses dedicated software for communication and collaboration. The usual suspects include Slack, Asana, and Trello.
As mentioned earlier, communication is crucial to teamwork. Therefore, the proper and masterful use of collaboration tools cannot be understated, especially in a remote work setup. If you start feeling like you're always playing catch-up about information crucial to efficiently delivering your job, it won't take long before you feel the brunt of such a communication roadblock.
Productivity and Time Management Tools
Employees more or less have the same number of work hours in a given day. But sometimes, you probably notice that some of your colleagues get to accomplish way more than you do. And that realization might periodically send your mental health spiraling down. One way to prevent that is by using a productivity or time management tool.
For instance, there's Clockify, a free time-tracking app. The app has a user-friendly interface. You can use it to track the hours devoted to a task or project. You can invite coworkers to the app so you can follow through on a project's progress together. You can also link the app to collaboration tools like Trello.
With these aids in your arsenal, you'll be better able to manage your time. You lessen the risk of misappropriating your allocated hours on a given day. As a result, you won't feel you don't have enough time as the project's deadline nears and then resort to cramming. Unfortunately, these things are often a recipe for triggering burnout and the good old blues—the last thing you want to happen.
Health and Wellness Tools
Aside from collaboration and time management tools, you can rely on other apps that might not be work-focused but are nonetheless helpful to your mental health. Think Calm. It's a meditation app that can help you stay focused and grounded even when the going gets tough.
The best thing about such tools is they're not exclusive to meditation enthusiasts who already perfected the art of conscious breathing. Even if you're a relative newbie to the meditation culture, these platforms will welcome you with open arms. They offer guided meditation when you feel overwhelmed with deliverables. The apps also maintain a library of sleep stories when work-related stress makes it difficult to get a shuteye.
Wrapping It Up
The key to good mental health amid remote work is staying connected and engaged. Have those covered, and you can continue working remotely without your mood swinging in the wrong direction.
For sustained human connection, do not miss out on every opportunity to socialize, whether virtual or face-to-face. Cultivate a strong camaraderie with the rest of your team, regardless of where they are along the corporate ladder. Do not shy away from using technologies at your disposal for sustained engagement. Whatever can make your work easier and more efficient, get behind it.
Lastly, do not feel guilty about being away from the office. So long as you're doing an incredible job, proximity doesn't matter. Your bosses will recognize your hard work even if you're a thousand miles away.
Meet Maisy Linnette, an aspiring freelance writer and editor. With a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail, Maisy has made it her mission to help businesses and individuals bring their words to life. When she's not working on a project, you can find Maisy exploring the outdoors, trying out new kitchen recipes, or curling up with a good book. She is a creative, dedicated, and hardworking individual who always looks for new opportunities to grow and learn.