Working from home sounds like the ultimate dream to people who have never experienced it before. Many people imagine working in their pajamas in bed while enjoying more time with loved ones. Although working from home can work great in some situations, the reality is that it is not for everyone. Truth is, it’s hard to maintain a good work-life balance.
Working from home can be a major problem for people who live alone or people who have a limited social life since remote workers may never get face-to-face interaction with another person for days or even weeks at a time.
Other people struggle with distractions at home or a demanding job that pressures them to work late into the night. Therefore, if remote work is in your future, you should understand how to maintain your mental health while still performing well.
Our team at Montare Behavioral Health can help improve your work-life balance or a loved one cope and manage your mental health conditions effectively.
Remote Work Is the New Normal
In the past, remote work was gradually becoming more common. For instance, a Gallup survey found that 43 percent of people worked from home at least occasionally in 2019. Remote work had gradually been becoming more common every year since the late 1990s when the internet made working from home theoretically feasible for some office workers. However, only an insignificant portion of the workforce was able to work from home every day.
When COVID-19 became a pandemic in 2020, most businesses sent their workers home. Gradually, a minority of workers began to return to the office by the end of 2020, but a survey from Pew Research in December 2020 found that 71 percent of workers are now working from home. This statistic is striking when people consider the fact that many jobs cannot be done virtually.
The reality is that most workers who can do their jobs at home are now working remotely. Many of these workers will continue working from home after the pandemic, and most employees will work from home at least a couple of days a week.
Pitfalls of Working From Home
Working from home is not the dream many people wish it was unless people are in the right circumstances. Coffee shops, coworking spaces, and shared offices are on every corner because a substantial portion of the population finds getting started and staying focused when working from home to be an unbearable struggle. Only people with a highly engaging job or rare levels of self-control can stay focused and get started on time when working alone from home. Getting started can be especially difficult for freelancers and contractors who can work whenever they want.
Living with other people can significantly increase a person’s chances of being able to work from home successfully. Having people around keeps a person’s mind on the present moment. Other people can also hold a worker accountable for responsibilities and provide necessary encouragement. For example, two life partners who live together and both work remotely would almost certainly have no problem working from home since they could keep each other focused and encouraged.
On the other hand, many people who work from home have children, spouses, and parents who need constant attention and frequently interrupt their work. Other people have very engaging hobbies or interests that their attention can easily turn to in a space free of the prying eyes of colleagues and supervisors. Consequently, many workers find staying focused difficult.
In other circumstances, workers find the home environment to be difficult because their work is highly engaging. Self-employed entrepreneurs, workers with substantial responsibilities, and workers seeking to improve their chances of earning a promotion often have a hard time drawing a line between work and relaxation.
Consequently, these workers may get focused on their work in a way that drives them to work late into the night. Some highly driven workers may put in more than 80 hours a week when they work from home, and a long schedule can destroy relationships over time.
Signs You’re Struggling To Work From Home
As a remote worker, it is crucial to recognize when working from home is not working out for you. Once you realize you have a problem, there are many actions you can take to improve your life as a remote worker. Some of the main signs to look for are detailed below.
1. Not Getting Much Work Done
If you find you are getting less work done at home than you normally get done at the office, you are probably in circumstances that make remote work less efficient. Many tips for improving your productivity will be provided later in this article, but it is important to understand that low productivity at home is a common problem that you have no reason to feel ashamed about.
2. Working Too Many Hours
Other remote workers find they work too many hours. Working excessive hours is a very common problem that is often addressed quite easily if you observe working long hours to be harmful to your health or relationships.
3. Neglecting Family, Friends, and Relationships
When you work at the office, it is easy to set work aside as soon as you step into your car after work. However, working from home can cause work to creep into your free time, and this problem can lead to interpersonal issues with friends, family, and life partners. Other people may experience issues with their relationships if they live with people who do not respect their need for privacy and silence when on the job.
4. Never Getting Your Mind off Work
If you work in the same place where you live, it is difficult to draw mental lines between home and work. Many people who work from home experience unforeseen issues with constantly thinking about issues at work when they are done for the day. Some remote workers even experience anxiety or insomnia that disrupts their lives.
Signs of Problems in Your Work-Life Balance
The most common problems that remote workers experience stem from problems in their work-life balance. Some common signs that you might be having problems managing your work-life balance are explained in the five points below.
1. Loved Ones Say They Want More Time With You
Loved ones telling you they want to see you more often is a red flag that you may not be giving enough attention to your personal life. This sign can be especially instructive when you have recently shifted to remote work after previously working in a conventional office environment.
2. Your Workplace Gives You Poor Performance Reviews
If you are not getting enough work done while working remotely, you could receive negative performance reviews from your supervisor. Poor performance reviews can be particularly problematic if your entire workforce recently shifted to remote work since there are substantial differences in performance levels among remote workers. You may want to consider immediately shifting to using shared workspaces or asking to go back to the office until your performance at home can improve.
3. Preventable Health Problems
You may be struggling to work remotely if you suddenly begin to get health problems. Poor diet, poor hygiene, and high levels of stress are often associated with struggling to work from home. These issues can lead to health problems that are usually preventable through healthy living, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or anorexia.
4. Not Remembering Your Last Day Off
It is important to get at least one day off every week. If you cannot remember the last day you had off, you are not drawing clear boundaries between your work life and home life.
5. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Staring at a monitor can make it difficult to fall asleep. Some remote workers also struggle to sleep because they are constantly thinking about their work or continuously checking their work at night.
How to Maintain Work-Life Balance
The good news is that many problems with a poor work-life balance are easy to solve. Additionally, when problems cannot be resolved immediately, they may eventually be resolved over time once circumstances change. Being aware of how you can improve your work-life balance can lay the foundation for a more balanced future ahead. Therefore, you should understand some of the best practices for maintaining an outstanding work-life balance.
Set a Time Limit on Daily Work
One of the easiest changes remote workers can make is to insist on setting a time limit on work each day. If you are involved in work that requires close collaboration with colleagues throughout the day, you may want to limit your work to specific blocks of time. Most workers stick with the conventional blocks of time, such as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which were common when most workers had to report to the office.
However, most modern workplaces allow remote employees to work at least part of their day during evenings or even in the middle of the night. Make a schedule that works for you, and insist on sticking with it unless truly extraordinary issues come up.
Set Physical Boundaries Between Work and Home
Many people who find working from home difficult try to do their work in places that they mentally associate with leisure or relaxation. Therefore, many people try to work in their bed or on their sofa. In reality, working in a place associated with rest leads to reduced brain activity. Some workers even fall asleep on the job. Also, when you are ready to rest, you may find yourself unable to relax because your brain becomes accustomed to recognizing your place of relaxation as a place for work.
The bottom line is that it is imperative to keep work confined to a specific part of your house. Ideally, you should designate a specific room as your home office. If you do not have enough space, consider remodeling your attic or at least setting aside a portion of a room as a workplace. When you shut the door to your home office for the night, you can then “go home” as you did at the office.
Insist on Having Days Off
As mentioned earlier, you should have at least one day off each week. On your day off, you should insist on doing no work. You could answer a few simple emails, but give yourself a full day to rest and focus on an activity other than work.
Use Coffee Shops Or Coworking Spaces
Many remote workers who struggle to get work done are surprised to find themselves working all day long when they go to a public space. Having people around can keep your mind in the present moment and cancel out distractions. If the people around you are also working, you will naturally feel peer pressure to work as hard as everyone else.
Therefore, coffee shops and coworking spaces are often the solutions that struggling remote workers are searching for. These spaces mirror the conventional office environment, and they get you away from any distractions at home.
Improving Your Mental Health When Working From Home
The problems associated with working from home can cause severe problems to your mental health. Some guidelines to stay sane when working remotely include:
Work with people: Humans are social beings who need nourishment through social interaction. Do your remote work in an environment where people are often around. Additionally, consider teaming up with other lonely colleagues by using always-on cameras to stay social and feel the presence of other people while on the job.
Mute work after hours: If you find yourself constantly stressed about work, use apps that block notifications from work-related chats after hours. Therefore, you can balance your life by focusing on your personal life instead of being constantly reminded about work.
Take breaks: When working from home, it is easy to push yourself to work through the entire day without taking a break. After all, you can usually get more than half of the remaining hours of the day to yourself if you start right away in the morning. Nevertheless, taking periodic breaks improves your mental health and can protect you from feeling burned out.
Where to Get Help
If you are wondering how to maintain a work-life balance, you should know that there are many resources available that can help. Some employers offer access to virtual seminars or courses on how to balance your life and how to balance work and family. If you know someone who says working from home is easy, consider asking them for insights on how to balance your life.
Other people have problems with working from home depression that is best addressed by a mental health professional. Many counseling services for working from home depression can be done virtually through inexpensive short sessions. Counselors can also offer advice on how to balance work and family.
How Montare Can Help
Montare Behavioral Health is a leading provider of luxury mental health services in California. The company can teach you to balance your life with services designed for people who are struggling to work from home. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.