How to stay healthy in remote work, according to a doctor
2020 is finally drawing to a close and, for many employees, it’s been a long, hard, trudge to the finish line.
When we look back on this year, it’ll be with less than fond farewell. From natural disasters to global pandemics, economic crashes and social isolation – we’ve seen it all.
And though many of the challenges we’ve faced have been physically draining, the most difficult to overcome have definitely been psychological.
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Mental wellbeing has always been of concern to HR leaders, however many businesses have only just woken up to its necessity. COVID-19 has made employers realise that mental wellbeing, investing in employee psychological health, isn’t a ‘nice to have’ – it’s an essential that needs to be taken seriously.
HRD spoke to leading mindfulness expert Dr Cortland Dahl, chief contemplative officer at the Centre for Healthy Minds, who revealed how to safeguard your employees’ metal wellbeing while working through a pandemic.
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“Work-life balance is the holy grail of the modern worker,” he told HRD.
“How to fit it all in, succeed in both your work and personal lives, and maintain a calm mental health state at the same time has been sought after by adults for decades .
“But now, those who are not actively risking their health by going into a workplace, like essential workers, are trying to seek this balance in a virtual world with little divide between the ‘work’ day and home.
“The benefits of our ability to easily connect, despite being separate, can also blur the line between what is work time and what is not. This adds a whole new dimension to these challenges, and when at its worst, you can feel like you are ‘living at work’ rather than ‘working from home’.
"As our founder, Dr Richard Davidson, points out, ‘the brain is a habit machine. It’s built to learn patterns… if we do the same activity over and over, the circuitry of the brain will change to get better at that activity. The more it happens, the stronger these circuits get. The brain learns from experience. It’s up to us to decide what to teach it. We can let the forces around us shape our brains, or we can choose to train ourselves to be healthy and more balanced. So is it really a surprise that we’re all getting stuck in overdrive?’"
This idea that we’re all stuck in an unending, unhealthy, routine – unbroken by location or rest – is something all too true for many employees.
Remote work has its advantages – and most businesses wouldn’t have survived the current crisis without it – but it can also be extremely detrimental for psychological health is done wrongly.
A recent report from DigitalOcean found that 82% of employees who work remotely feel ‘burnt out’ – with a further 40% claiming they felt pressured into doing more work than in-office colleagues.
After all, when your office is your home, it’s incredibly difficult to get the find that balance of personal and professional time.
Dr Dahl offered up four ways to stay happy and healthy while working from home.
- Create a separate workspace
“Even if you don’t have the physical space for separation, you can use cues like a lamp or a well-placed tapestry to make sure you are “going” to work.”
- Take regular breaks throughout the day.
“Set a pomodoro timer to have regular breaks to practice awareness and be present. You need to proactively create the opportunities for space throughout the day. You can try this meditation as a pause between work.”
- Create real indicators of transition
“Some people even add a “commute” to their at home work lives by going for a walk around the block. Our app offers on-the-go meditations to support these breaks within your day.”
- Define and seek out non-work experiences that bring you joy
“It’s easy to get in a routine where we are moving directly from work to sleep and back again when we’re working from home.
“For this reason, it’s important to lean into the purpose area of ACIP and cultivate activities that reinforce this motivation. If it’s 5 pm on a Wednesday, what non-work activity do you have to look forward to? Plan that now.”