The challenge of working remotely

No commute, and all day in sweatpants: working remotely sounds like a dream.

When it suddenly became reality this past year, many were finding themselves struggling at home with the challenge to keep up productivity while staying mentally healthy.

Working remotely has many advantages. It allows us to manage our own time, cut unnecessary meetings, and to do yoga during our lunch breaks.

So, why are so many people struggling with this change?

An important factor is productivity. Even though working remotely can enhance productivity [1, 2], many individuals feel unproductive working from home.

One reason for this is that it can be more difficult to avoid distractions at home than in an office. Getting distracted makes us feel less productive and efficient.

Also, the right conditions, such as a fast internet connection, a workspace, and a quiet environment, help to work efficiently.

Lastly, it can be hard to distance ourselves from work when working remotely. A healthy work-life balance can be threatened more easily when working from home than working in an office. Blurred boundaries between work and home make it easier to get distracted, mix work-, and non-work-related tasks, and make it harder to switch off at the end of a working day.

All this can build up stress and tension and lead to overworking and anxiety.

What can you do to work productively from home while protecting your mental health?

  • Set up your office at home

Create a designated office workspace at home and optimize your focus. Text messages, phone calls, and social media are distractions at work. Mute your phone and avoid areas in your home that invite you to get distracted.

  • Schedule your workdays

Setting regular working hours and sticking to a schedule can help you to feel more structured and efficient. This also increases your focus and concentration and boosts your productivity.

  • Create To-Do lists

Start your workday by creating a to-do list with goals for the day. This improves your own structure and helps you stick with one task instead of jumping from one thing to the next.

  • Take regular breaks

Breaks are the most effective way to stay productive. Particularly longer breaks increase productivity and enhance satisfaction with your own performance. Walks outside are a great way to take a break and improve your productivity.

  • Practice good communication

Plan frequent and regular team meetings to keep in touch with your colleagues and discuss projects. This can also help to promote a positive team spirit.

  • Find professional help

Working remotely can be challenging and trigger tension, worry, and distress. Over time this can lead to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. Act early. A psychologist can help you learn how to manage stressful situations, reduce stress, and increase your own productivity and happiness.

We are experiencing a historic shift from office work to remote work [3,4]. Transitions can be challenging and it is normal to be overwhelmed and struggle due to change. Importantly, there are ways to improve your situation now and it is worth making that change for your own satisfaction and balance.

References

  1. DuBrin, A. J. (1991). Comparison of the job satisfaction and productivity of telecommuters versus in-house employees: A research note on work in progress. Psychological Reports, 68(3_suppl), 1223–1234.
  2. Bloom, N. (2014). To raise productivity, let more employees work from home. Harvard business review, 92(1/2), 28–29.
  3. Ozimek, A. (2020). The Future of Remote Work. Available at SSRN 3638597.
  4. Chung, H., Seo, H., Forbes, S., & Birkett, H. (2020). Working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown: Changing preferences and the future of work.

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Clinical Psychologist. Mental Health and Lifestyle Specialist. Traveler.

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Katharina Koch

Clinical Psychologist. Mental Health and Lifestyle Specialist. Traveler.