Once our sanctuary away from the office is now just that—the office. ATL psychologist Rebecca Johnson Osei shares her tips for a seamless transition.
Working from home can have physical and mental effects, so make sure to take a break.
There are mixed opinions on working from home: Some absolutely adore it, while others need the structure and separation of a corporate office. Now as the world has halted due to the current state of affairs, we have lost the chance to choose either/or. Our kitchen tables, makeup vanities and living rooms have become our workplaces.
For the majority of us, gone are the days of break time by the watercooler and doughnuts from Sally in HR, and in are the days of adjusting, adapting and prevailing in the face of adversity. The key to WFH success is environment and boundaries. “There are so many extra stressors associated with working from home,” says Dr. Rebecca Johnson Osei of Concierge Psychology(conciergepsychology.com). “There’s a pressure for people to be always ‘on,’ always available for both their work and their family 24/7, and that can be really difficult and exhausting. This is why the need to have boundaries, to compartmentalize when we are ‘home’ versus when we are at ‘work,’ is so important.” She continues, “On top of that, we have concerns about the health of ourselves and of loved ones, and increased financial and employment concerns related to COVID-19 that we did not have before.” To create physical boundaries, Osei suggests finding a room away from the normal foot traffic of the home and working at a desk with everything you need for the day within arm’s reach. “Even if your home office is simply a corner of the kitchen table, make sure that the area you’ve selected is understood as and set up as your office,” she says.
Mental boundaries are a little more difficult to define, and Osei suggests first learning to say no. “Aside from your computer, your phone, maybe a printer and a comfortable place to sit, the ability to say no when you need to—in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance—is so essential,” she says. “It is easy to talk about work-life balance when they are physically separate places! When they occur in the same location, it is much harder, and even more important, to make sure that they don’t bleed into, and thus decrease the quality, of each other.” Because your environment plays a big role in your success while working from home, aim to create a space where you wouldn’t mind staying for a while.
Adding a candle or a pillow, choosing a lumbar-supporting desk chair or adding a table lamp can do wonders. Things to avoid while creating your environment are working from bed and in front of a TV. “If you wouldn’t have the TV on in your office at work, don’t have it on while you’re working from home. If you wouldn’t check social media at your desk at work, don’t check it at your desk at home. If you wouldn’t search the web during an in-person meeting, don’t search it during your video calls,” says Osei. Speaking of videoconferencing, she urges that turning on your camera will help you commit to a routine. “It is tempting to stay in our pajamas and not do our hair, etc., when working from home. When this is our every day it can begin to wear on us emotionally and impact things like productivity because we are not mentally and emotionally in the zone the way we would normally be,” she says. “Believe it or not, your morning ritual of getting physically ready for work also prepares you mentally for your day. When we skip this step, it can be harder to get into the flow of things.”
Finally, Osei says one of the most important things is to remember to take time for yourself, your brain and your emotions. “This can be a long bath, meditation, time to be creative. ... Whatever it is, it should be protected. This also means taking time to process your feelings and your stresses.” Osei suggests involving a third party like an app or therapist to hold you accountable for self-care time. The American workforce has been able to adjust, and as we continue to work from home, these tips can help us not just survive, but flourish.
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Photography by: From top: Polina Zimmerman/Pexel; all other photos courtesy of brands