So many of us moved to NYC to enjoy the hustle and bustle, the people, and the many cultural and entertainment opportunities. Now, many of us are working from home and are feeling isolated.
Whether you live in the city, suburbs, or country, working from home can be a challenge. It’s important to take care of your mental health and develop habits that keep you both productive at work and happy in your personal life.
If you’re home alone all day and the primary source of communication with co-workers is email or the company messaging system, you may begin to feel very alone. This feeling can sometimes lead to depression and isolation. Don’t let that go on for long – as soon as you realize you’re feeling alone and isolated, start taking steps to reverse it.
What you can do: Consider using a co-working space or working with a friend who also works from home. That way you can bounce ideas off each other, take a coffee break together, and take a walk together during lunch. Ask your employer to set up a group communication system like Google Hangouts, Slack, or one of many other options. Meet with a friend during lunch. Schedule regular in-person or video hangouts with friends and family so that at least every day you’re seeing someone’s face while talking with the person. Attend cultural events and develop hobbies that involve other people.
Blurred work/life boundaries & distractions
It can be very difficult to separate work and home life when they’re both taking place in the same space. This is especially true if a spouse, kids, or pets are vying for your attention while you’re working. If you stop working to interact with them but you still need to put in your hours, you may find yourself working into the night, thus feeling like you’re “always working.” And when communication with co-workers takes place via email or text, they may feel they can reach out to you any time and expect a response.
Maybe the distractions come instead from your cell phone, people texting you, or your social media pinging all day. Looking at “just one thing” on your phone can have you coming up for air an hour later and realizing you just wasted time that you can’t bill for and that you still have all that work to do.
What you can do: You will need to communicate your boundaries, both to the people you live with and the people you work with. Clearly state to co-workers and supervisors the times of day that you will be available and when they can expect replies from you. Clearly state to those who live with you what interruptions are permitted and not permitted during the hours you work.
If your employer allows you to structure your own hours, you could structure your work around your family’s needs. Have a family meeting to discuss work hours that will allow you to spend time with them, have time for yourself, and still get your work done. Then, short of something really important coming up, stick to it.
As for technology, if at all possible, keep your phone out of sight and away from your work area. You can check it during break time and lunch (but set a timer so you get back to work on time!). Turn off alerts on your social media and your texts (except family and co-workers) so they don’t pop up or ping and you only see them when you look.
When your work is done, put your work away. It’s important your work is out of your living spaces when you are “off.”
Feeling untrusted or unsupported
Some supervisors become very over-reaching, demanding an accounting of your every minute to make sure you’re working and not goofing off. On the other hand, some supervisors aren’t good at communicating with off-site employees, which may cause a delay in getting the information you need to work efficiently. When your supervisor is both – demanding an account of every moment and yet not giving you the support to be efficient – frustration can lead to anxiety and anger.
What you can do: It may be difficult, but you’ll have to talk to your supervisor about the situation. Be sure to have documentation to show not only that you can be trusted, but also that you are not getting the information you need. If you have documentation of the emails or calls requesting the needed content, the time it took to get it, and the work that you did (or were unable to do) while waiting for it, you will be able to show that you are conscientious but need a better flow of support to be as efficient as possible.
It’s very important not to use an accusatory tone with your supervisor. Present the situation as something that you and your boss need to collaborate on in order to solve the problem together. But it’s ok to admit your frustration and your unhappiness about the situation. Hopefully, your boss is open enough to work with you to resolve the situation. If you have a toxic boss, another option may be to begin job-seeking. No one can work long under an uncooperative and unpleasant person and maintain a healthy mental attitude. Find a situation that is better suited to you and your work style.
If you need some help coming up with ways to work from home successfully and happily, reach out to me and we can find the solutions together. It may just take a few sessions to help you step back, look at your situation, and create a really healthy and satisfying life plan working from home.