Mental Health and Work From Home

– Ayushi Srivastava and – Tanushka Fernandes

The year 2020 for most of us, has brought upon a massive change, a large amount of uncertainty, and new challenges. With the emergence of COVID19 and extended lockdown periods, many of us are required to work from our homes. While it may sound undemanding and comforting, working from home comes with its own set of pros and cons. 

Sanmit Das 27, Bangalore, usually spends 1- 2 hours in a day commuting to work. Working from home allows him to do away with this difficulty and he can use those extra hours more productively. However, this new arrangement requires him to spend long hours at a stretch on the laptop/ phone with his earphones on. Simple matters that could be addressed through a face to face interaction with colleagues now requires him to make multiple calls. His screen time has increased exponentially. He also misses his friends and feels lonely as he dislikes working in isolation. Even the slightest interruption in the WiFi connection, disrupts his work leaving him feeling frustrated and tired.

Raina Gopal 30, Mumbai, enjoys being a teacher. She begins her day with a team con-call every morning, followed by a long day completing year-end reports, zoom meetings, creating online content for students, etc. She now ends up working for about 12 hours in a day. Due to no domestic help, managing household chores, and a work-from-home schedule leaves her feeling exhausted. However, spending the day at home also gives her time to bond with her family and pursue her hobbies like cooking and doodling. 

Dilshad Ahsan 26, Delhi, works for a microfinance company while his family lives miles away in a town in Madhya Pradesh. Apart from the pressure that the sector is facing, the constant worry about the wellbeing of his family back home adds to his stress and anxiety. It gets difficult to keep up with work as the news coverage- his sole point of information, gets negative by the day and there is no one around to even share his concerns with.

While each one of us finds a way to make this new arrangement viable in the best way possible it is important to tend to our mental and emotional well being. It is completely natural to experience some amount of stress and anxiety while managing work schedules, working in isolation, and juggling between working from home and working for home.

Here are some things you can do: 

  • Fixed Schedule/Routine: Try having a fixed schedule with sufficient breaks, and a fixed place to work. Remember to wrap up on time so that you have enough time for yourself. The boundaries of space may seem blurred. However, with practice, you may establish the charge of your time and make the best use of it.
  • Staying Connected: Keep in touch with friends and family to remind yourself that you are not alone in this. While staying indoors, our experiences are bound to get limited. However, we can add variety by sharing experiences and insights with people close to us. Isolation calls for physical distancing but we can use this opportunity for emotional closeness.
  • Self-Care: This is a good time to indulge in anything that you enjoy doing. It could be pampering yourself or pursuing some hobbies or reflecting via journaling will help you cope with the challenging phase that you may be going through.
  • Staying Fit and Healthy: It is essential to eat healthily, stay hydrated, and exercise regularly. Try walking, stretching, or any simple exercises that you can do at home. Engaging in physical exercise releases endorphins which are responsible for improving your mood. If it helps, there are various apps such as cure.fit, Fiton, JEFIT that may keep you in a routine.
  • Limit the use of media: While it is essential to stay informed and updated, try to limit media exposure that may elevate your anxiety or stress. Try sticking to sources that are accurate and correct.

Here are some things Managers and Supervisors can do to support the employees during this challenging phase:

  • Stay connected: It may be useful to check in with your team (individually or collectively) regularly on how they’re feeling. Talking to employees about their difficulties and fears may help them to feel less isolated. Try to encourage employees to participate in virtual team building activities like a quiz, game, puzzle, pixel art, or a storytelling workshop. 
  • Promote e-learning: This is a good time to encourage employees to make use of their time productively and enroll in online courses that are now available for free. This may also be useful in distracting them from the challenging phase that they are faced with.
  • Employee Assistance Program and Counseling Support: Let your employees know that support is available if they need it. This may involve redirecting them to the correct channels for support or connecting them with support services available within the organization. There are some organizations that offer telephone and online/email-based counseling services like ‘iCALL’ and ‘Inner Space Counselling and Assessment’. Organizations like ‘Prafulta’ also offer Support Group services.
  • Encourage Personal Planning: Encourage employees to keep a separation between work and personal life. This may involve indulging in any self-care techniques that work for them. Ask your employees what they do for self-care.
  • Show Empathy & Offer Flexibility: Times like these call for managers and supervisors to be cognizant of the fact that employees’ productivity will not be at its best and that working from home might be new territory for most employees and not the safest one for some. Being empathetic and flexible with schedules and tasks is a necessary caution that should be taken into account thus fostering a sensitive and healthy workplace culture.

These tips might help you maintain your mental health as you work from home, additionally holding spaces with care and practicing patience with yourself and others around you might help you go a long way. 

About the authors:

Tanushka Fernandes is a Human Resource Associate with 6 years of experience in the education sector. She has completed her Post Graduation in Human Resources Management from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She is a music enthusiast and also loves reading.

Ayushi is a mental health professional and a freelance graphic artist. She has completed her MSW in Mental Health from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She enjoys art and reading.

Illustrations by: Riddhi Gandhi.

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