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Remote work used to be a buzzword. Now, it’s a reality for most professionals and we’ve reason to believe it’ll be the new normal. More companies will form global talent pools. More employees will demand flexible working arrangements. Technology will continue to advance and enable businesses to thrive digitally. There’s so much promise to remote work that everyone wants to do it. But if you’re not careful, working remotely can have detrimental effects on your mental health.

The Dangers of Working Remotely

Remote work has many benefits. This is why more employees are looking for remote work opportunities for their next job. With going so far as accepting a pay cut of more than 10% just so employers would let them work remotely. But the flexibility that comes with working remotely can come with a price. Often, the price is your health.

Studies show that remote workers suffer from burnout and loneliness. All that time working alone can make you feel left out and lost in touch. And when this happens, it’s easy to succumb to unhealthy thoughts and bad habits. This can lead to mental health problems if you’re not self-aware and being proactive about it.

Some remote workers suffer from burnout because they feel obligated to work 24/7. Being in the comforts of one’s home or having the flexibility of time can make companies demand employees to be on-call. And this makes employees feel overworked until they break down. This can be done unintentionally. But if both parties are not made aware, the employee suffers. And when an employee is not physically and mentally stable, work quality also suffers. In the end, the company takes a hit because of an employee’s poor performance.

How to Stay Mentally Healthy When Working Remotely

To keep enjoying the benefits of remote work, remote professionals need to be proactive when it comes to their mental health. Here are 7 tips to stay mentally healthy when working remotely:

Plan Your Work

Having a well-planned schedule prepares your mind for the workday ahead and helps you focus on achieving your daily goals. Make sure to stick to your schedule and don’t squeeze in unplanned tasks unless absolutely necessary. Planning your tasks allows you to distribute the workload and only take in work that you can handle. If you work on a fixed schedule, it’s still advisable to have a plan to structure your work. This instills discipline and focus as you’ll meet various distractions when working from home.

When planning your work, decide when you’ll do personal tasks too. Including these helps you get a better picture of all the tasks that you have to accomplish. You can plan your work daily or weekly and make adjustments as necessary. To have better results in planning, you can use time management systems like Kanban to structure your work.

Track Your Time

With your work plan ready, the next step is to track how much time you’re dedicating to work and personal tasks. Are you staying within your schedule? Are you working longer hours than planned? If you’re not sticking to your schedule, find out the reasons why. If it’s because of too much workload, consider discussing the situation with your manager. If it’s because of a lack of focus, you can apply time management strategies like Pomodoro Technique to strengthen your concentration. A conducive work environment free from distractions is also a must if you want to keep yourself focused while working remotely.

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Stay Physically Active

As the saying goes, “A healthy mind lives in a healthy body.” Exercise helps release brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. These happy hormones regulate your mood and reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Staying physically active helps to manage stress and keep mental health problems at bay. It can also improve the quality of your sleep. Now, you don’t have to be drastic and do HIIT all of a sudden. Incorporate small steps into building an exercise routine. Take a brisk walk around your neighborhood in the early morning or late afternoon. At least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity each day should be enough. Once you build that fitness mood, consider joining a local community gym so you can stay fit and socialize at the same time.

Take Your Work Outside

When you’re in the confines of your home, it’s so easy to slack off and push your tasks aside. The next day you’ll realize you’re swamped with work with a deadline to meet. This unnecessary stress could have been avoided if you stuck to your schedule. If that’s a bit of a challenge, consider changing your scenery from time to time. When you’re in an office, it’s easy to be on “work-mode” because everyone else is. But when you work remotely, that busy feeling can be difficult to maintain on your own. If you don’t have a physical office nearby, you can go to a coworking space instead. You can also try a café near you, but I find I’m more productive in coworking spaces than in cafés especially when I need longer hours to work and want undivided attention.

Take Breaks

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to work non-stop. Your mind needs to take a breather. Have mini-breaks in between tasks. Take vacations and leave work behind. Reward yourself by spending some time doing what you love and leaving work behind for a while. Being mindful when it comes to pausing work will help keep you mentally healthy and recharged once you get back to work.

Make Time to Socialize

When working remotely, you need to exert extra effort in building interpersonal relationships. Schedule time with your family and friends. Attend social gatherings within your community. You can even start your own and attract similar-minded people. These will help you prevent feelings of isolation. They can also be your support group for when you’re feeling troubled at work.

Learn to Say “No”

Knowing and accepting your boundaries and limitations is key to staying mentally healthy when doing remote work. You’re not a robot. You get burned out and overworked. This is why it’s important to only take on work that you can handle. When you feel that adding another task will make your head explode, you can talk it out with your manager. Discuss your priorities and let them know when you’re able to take the new task.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health When Working From Home

While you do have more control of your time when you’re working remotely, the time you work alone can be harmful if you’re not proactive about it. Staying mentally healthy is a personal commitment. It’s your mind and your health at stake. Our simple yet effective tips can help you navigate the intricacies of working remotely with a healthy mind and body. Focusing on your mental health will not only help you achieve success as a remote worker but also help you win at life.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.