The workplace culture has tremendously shifted, and many employees have found themselves working from home for the first time. The sounds of the kettle have replaced the hustle and bustle of the office, and the only physical co-workers you can see are your curious toddlers or your pet. Team meetings have been taken online, and we have placed agarbatti sticks on our only hope to tide over this crisis; the wifi router. For some of us students, working from home has become working for home as we try to juggle between our home chores, online courses, social interactions and boredom.
Whether you’re an employer, an employee or a student the rather distinct interface between work and home has blurred, possibly taking a toll on our mental health. Social distancing has caused overcrowding in our homes where we are both literally and metaphorically stepping on each other’s nerves. On a more serious note, the uncertainty of the future along with market instability and mounting financial responsibilities has possibly left many of us anxious and emotionally depleted. Therefore it is of utmost urgency to take the time to make our homes a conducive environment that assists in maximising both our work productivity and our mental health.
Let’s get practical. Here are 7 strategies to boost your mental health to ensure work productivity during this lockdown season.
- Stick to a set routine
A drastic change in routine or lack thereof could be one of the biggest reasons for our anxiety levels to shoot up. The day to day motion of going to college or work or picking up a sandwich at your favourite snack bar unconsciously gives us an illusion of predictability, control and stability. Therefore it is important to ease ourselves into a structured routine so that we can get everything we need to get done, both on the work and home front.
The easiest way to jumpstart our day is to have a morning routine that helps us mentally prepare for the day ahead. Wake up early, as you would during a normal day. Make your bed. Grab some breakfast. Do something for your mental health. Squeeze in a 10-minute meditation session or a quick morning workout. Something that helps me is journaling in the morning, where I do a brain dump of all my fears, anxieties and barriers that are hindering me from being my productive self that day. Make sure to get some release first thing in the morning, whatever that looks like for you.
The second important thing is to create distinct work and home schedules as if it were a normal day and you went to work. If you are in the office from 9 am to 5 pm each day, make sure you are working the same hours even at home. At the same time, make sure to log off from all office work according to the same timings. If you seem to keep getting distracted, turn on some focus music and keep a distraction journal, where you note down anything that comes to your mind. Once you are done working you can get to sorting out those nitty gritties.
- Create a home office
Research has proved that ambience and ergonomics play an important role in sustaining motivation especially when it comes to working. You need to create a separate workspace exclusively for work and work alone. This, when religiously practised, helps your brain associate your workspace with focussed work. Make sure you are not cutting vegetables or aimlessly scrolling through social media at your work station because it completely defeats the purpose.
Some practical advice would be to station your workspace next to multiple charging points, make sure it is in optimal wifi connectivity range and make sure it is definitely far away from your bed. It is advisable to ensure your UPS has enough battery life in case you have frequent power cuts. Put your phone on do not disturb or at least install some social media app blockers such as Freedom or offtime during work times. We all know how our phones can be the greatest vice, especially in a work from home situation because there is no supervision.
- Take digital breaks
Especially if you’re a working mom it is advisable to get most of the cooking and cleaning out of the way before work officially starts. Now that you have multiple helping hands, learn the art of delegating. Apart from that is advisable to take quick 5 to 10-minute digital breaks to give your eyes a rest. After an hour or two of work, step away from all screens, rest your eyes and give your shoulders a stretch. You can also use this time to do quick chores, such as turning on the washing machine, making a cup of chai or maybe even doing a few burpees.
- Time batching
The easiest way to waste time is to attempt to multitask or do things as and when we remember it. When we multitask we are often not being as efficient as we think, we are just quickly shifting contexts and focus between tasks and that can be mentally draining. The best way to conserve mental and physical energy is by time batching.
Time batching is a productivity strategy that aims at grouping tasks of a similar nature to get more done in less time. For example, instead of answering emails every time, a notification pops up; setting an hour every night to get through all the emails at once. This not only helps you focus and fuel past the task with maximum energy but also focus on the task at hand with minimal distractions.
Shifting between varied tasks often results in a loss of energy as you have to mentally refocus on each task when you start afresh. This same technique can be applied to almost all tasks such as chores, phone calls or even social media scrolling etc. Just remember to batch similar tasks and go at it with full vigour.
- Communicating and Socialisation
This is an important time to express your emotional commitment to your team and work circles. Many companies have started regular zoom huddles and online meetings to help increase accountability and get work done. Make the conscious step of spending more time with your team, pairing up and brainstorming with team members and even going the extra mile to help a colleague fix a roadblock. While some employees seem to hardly have the motivation, others seem to be working more than usual due to the blurring of work and home life.
Managers and supervisors will greatly appreciate it if you are in constant touch with them, regularly updating them with your progress and exhibiting initiative to take on more tasks or roles. Additionally, once you’re done with work, make sure to be actually done with work. Sign off from all work-related groups. This time is also a precious opportunity to spend quality time with family members and reconnect with friends. Strive to make meaningful connections instead of aimless social media scrolling.
- Exercise. Nutrition. Sleep
The holy trinity of good mental health. There are finally no excuses for working out, cooking healthy meals and getting a good night’s sleep. If you consistently schedule these three elements, you will feel an overall increase in physical and psychological well being. You don’t have to strive for perfection, rather strive for progress in that positive direction.
You might ask, “What about the kids?” Try to schedule their day with a mix of learning and fun as well. Use technology for your benefit and make sure to spend quality time with them daily. Also, pick one self-care activity every day as your winding down ritual. Pamper yourself with some skincare or watching your favourite show or spending time with your better half or even reading a book. Look at this as a hard-earned reward for being productive. Take weekends off.
On a positive note, this pandemic will prepare the workforce for a potential shift into telecommuting and the online sphere. We will be better equipped to plug into the gig economy and possibly try out new freelance options. We finally have the time to reposition ourselves and re-brand ourselves with multiple portfolios by upskilling ourselves. We can finally reclaim our time and enjoy this new flexibility to truly explore and embrace our full potential.
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