With the global pandemic, working from home became not just an option for some people, but a necessity for many, if not most, workers. If you work from home—whether by choice or because you must—you may experience the pros and cons living and working in the same place. Taking proactive steps to make the most of working from home can strengthen your mental and physical health, as well as your professional life.
If you are concerned about your mental health or that of a loved one, please reach out for help. Advice, help, hope, and effective treatment from licensed mental health professionals are available at BetterHelp.
Benefits of Working from Home:
- Many who work from home find that they can achieve a positive work-home life balance.
- Working from home can offer a sense of autonomy and independence.
- Cutting the commute can maximize time and minimize stress. Stress levels that go up in heavy traffic or crowds can be addressed by eliminating travel to and from work. Not having to commute can also add time to your day to devote to beneficial activities, like sleep, exercise, productivity, and positive relationships.
- Working from home can open doors for more professional opportunities. Work options may not be as limited by geographic location if going to a workplace isn’t necessary.
- Working from home may save you money. For example, cutting costs associated with commuting can be a money saver. Money can be saved on gas, car maintenance, parking, and public transportation. Wardrobe costs and food expenses may also decrease.
- Working from the comfort of home can reduce stress and, for some people, increase productivity.
- Eliminating a commute may cut greenhouse gas emissions, which can make working from home environmentally friendly.
- Working from home may offer more time for taking care of your health. For instance, people who work from home might find they have more time to exercise, to prepare healthy meals, and get more sleep.
Potential Drawbacks of Working from Home:
- Feelings of isolation may occur. Humans are social beings; human interactions, which can be important for emotional health, may not be as frequent for those who work from home.
- Limited communication with others can be a concern. Working to achieve effective communication with co-workers can be beneficial. While video conferencing, email, messaging, and online work platforms facilitate communication, face-to-face interactions can also be valuable. If they’re not possible, take care to communicate respectfully and fully on virtual platforms to make the most of collaborating with colleagues.
- Feeling pressure to work non-stop can be stressful. Some people who work from home may find they feel compelled to work constantly or have difficulty shutting off from work outside of regular, expected work hours.
- Increased stress from balancing pressures of home and work simultaneously can be challenging.
- Fatigue and eye strain may increase from constant use of screens.
- Strong self-motivation and self-accountability are necessary.
- Feelings that your hard work is not as visible can be frustrating.
How to Make the Most of Working from Home:
- Try to use productive time management skills. For instance, try writing down a realistic schedule and following it. Try sticking to time limits for each task. Schedule times to start and finish work and remember to schedule breaks.
- Understand your employer’s expectations for working from home. Keep the lines of communication open and ask questions when needed.
- Establish a healthy routine. Instead of working a few hours here and there, it can be helpful to get into a routine and follow a daily schedule that includes waking up at the same time each day, eating regular meals, having regular work times, and predictable times reserved for non-work activities and responsibilities.
- Regularly connect with others. Try to find the best ways to interact with both co-workers and non-co-workers. Keep in mind the value of collaborating with co-workers.
- Prioritize healthy communication with co-workers when connecting virtually. Give others a chance to communicate and protect your right to communicate. Practice active listening. Acknowledge and be open to compromises and the opinions and suggestions of others.
- Create a dedicated workspace at home. Setting up a home office in a room or a corner can help with productivity and maintaining a healthy work-home life separation and balance. Keeping work out of the bedroom can help protect a relaxing space for sleep.
- Set realistic, measurable, specific goals for what you can and want to accomplish. It can be helpful to set goals for the week and month ahead and to review daily goals each morning or at the end of each workday. Reassess goals regularly and try adjusting if necessary.
- Try to eliminate distractions, such as social media alerts and interruptions from around the home.
- Try to conquer the most challenging tasks at the times of day that you’re most alert and productive.
- If you live with others, communicate your work-from-home schedule and needs.
- Give your eyes and mind breaks from looking at screens. Additionally, wearing blue light blocking glasses may be helpful for reducing eye strain.
- Schedule time for self-care, which is crucial for physical and mental health and can help you be more productive when you work. Self-care is very personal, but positive strategies include:
- Eating a nutritious diet and regular meals.
- Prioritizing healthy sleep patterns and getting enough sleep.
- Exercising, which can trigger the release of endorphins and serotonin—feel-good chemicals in the body.
- Engaging in self-care activities such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditating, and exposure to fresh air and sunshine.
- Socializing and making time to do things that you enjoy.
- Making gratitude a habit.
With good time management and planning, healthy communication, and a knowledge of how to take care of yourself and protect your work-home life balance, you may find that working from home is a good fit for you. If you do work outside of the home, using self-care strategies can still help you make the most of your time and productivity—both at work and at home—and protect your physical and mental health.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.