Virtually no one could have expected how rapidly or radically COVID-19 would transform our lives. What has happened since March 2020 seems to be an unsettling, dystopian fantasy. It seems like just yesterday we were being given instructions to bring our work laptops home with us in case we were asked to telework the following Monday. From one day to the next, the life we once enjoyed and had become so accustomed to vanished completely. What foolishly seemed to be a two-week break from the workplace soon turned into companies like Twitter and Shopify announcing telecommuting as their default. At the beginning of quarantine, I had a difficult time adjusting to what some called our “new normal.” I held a lot of hope that we were going to go back into the office. As time progressed, I quickly realized that teleworking was here to stay, and that I needed to find ways to make the transition better.
Like millions of other Canadians, I have been working from home for the last six months. Like many of you, the adjustment period has not been the easiest on me. During the initial shutdown orders, I was balancing a part-time job while taking a full-time course load. Life as I once knew it drastically shifted. In-person meetings and classes became endless calls on Zoom and Teams, and socializing time became late night FaceTime calls. Gone were the days when I could meet up with my friends on campus or laugh with my colleagues about the funny thing their kid had done that weekend. Quickly, my little bedroom became my workspace, my school, and my relaxation spot. Overwhelmed, I knew that I needed to change something if this was going to be my new normal
What has helped me
Although we would like to ignore this reality, for the unforeseeable future, COVID-19 will be part of everyone’s life. Acknowledging this fact has helped me let go of my unrealistic expectations and has driven me to adjust my life to the reality of the pandemic. As much as we miss the lives we had before the virus, holding on to those feelings can have an impact on our mental health. For example, if you have been putting off setting up a home office in the hopes that you will be back in the office soon enough, it might be sensible to go ahead with it.
The previous example takes me to my next bit of advice—try as much as you can to have a defined workspace. Investing some time and money into a comfortable workspace that encourages productivity is one of the best tips that I can give someone who is struggling with working from home. This means investing in a decent chair and desk or, finally, getting that second monitor that you have been contemplating purchasing. Not only will a given workspace help you concentrate, but it will also help get you into the right headspace to work.
Another crucial tip that I have learned over time is the value of maintaining a daily routine during such challenging times. A regular routine incorporates many elements, such as waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, eating three meals a day, and getting enough exercise. I noticed that my mood was instantly being uplifted when I took the time to stretch, walk, or spend time in nature. I strongly encourage you, if you can, to go outside at least once a day, even if it's just sitting on your porch. Also, as much as it can be tempting to work in loungewear, it can be very motivating to shower and to put on clothes that we would normally save for the office. The same way that having a defined workspace can get you in the right headspace, so does changing into clothes that make you feel ready to conquer the day.
An effective daily routine also often includes time for entertainment, family and friends, and self-care. If there is anything positive that came out of COVID-19, it is our realization of the importance and value of social connection. An important emphasis should be placed onto self-care. Self-care can mean different things to different people and can involve a wide range of activities. Personally, I’m a big fan of bubble baths, cozy evenings in with tea and a good book, and going to Starbucks to get my favourite fall drink. I think it’s about finding what makes you happy and doing more of it.
Working in the 'new normal'
My final piece of advice is to remember that you are never alone. Although we might be living in a time of extreme isolation and social distancing, never forget how loved you are and how you have people in your corner. Always remember that whatever you are feeling right now is completely valid. It is understandable to be thankful for having a job right now while simultaneously struggling to cope.
I cannot stress enough the importance of venting and reaching out to others when you need it. Vent Over Tea offers free Skype or phone calls with an active listener. Additionally, in a Quick Guide to Virtual Mental Health Support, you can find an excellent list of mental health resources. I hope this blog post has given you some ideas to make working from home a little easier. In the comments, I would love to hear what you’ve been doing to take care of your mental health during this time.
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