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Globally, 16% of companies are now fully remote, with about 62% of workers aged 22 to 65 claiming to work remotely at least occasionally. And a survey conducted by Upwork predicts 36.2 million workers, or 22% of Americans, will be working remotely by the year 2025, an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
As remote work options continue to grow two years post-lockdown, we might think we’ve got this whole remote work thing, well, locked down. We have dedicated home workspaces and are well-lit with ring lights. We’re sitting pretty in the most ergonomic chairs, keeping our adorable desk plants alive, and (mostly) remembering to unmute ourselves before talking in a virtual meeting.
There is still a big bad monster under the desk that deserves our attention, however. The mental health troll — er, toll — that working remotely can take on us all.
While there are many perks to working remotely, it does come with some drawbacks. In 2021 the American Psychiatric Association conducted an online survey of 1,000 remote workers, the majority of whom said they experienced negative mental health impacts, including isolation, loneliness, and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day. Plus, the lack of in-person body language and communication cues from co-workers can make it tough to navigate and maintain healthy work relationships. Finding a way to balance the advantages of working remotely with its challenges is critical for long-term, work-from-home success. Here’s how to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Whether you’re new to working from home, or you’ve been doing it for a while, it’s important to take measures of how you really spend your time. What time of day, and under what circumstances, are you most productive? What tasks are actually taking up most of your time and focus? Ask these questions, then assess and act on the answers regularly to preserve a calm, productive, at-home work environment.
If you’re a manager or mentor, seek out coachable moments. Create coaching opportunities by scheduling regular one-on-ones with direct reports to stay in touch and abreast of the true workplace “vibe.” And when coachable moments do arise, don’t send an email or slack. Have those conversations on a Google Meet or Zoom.
Turn on your camera during meetings. It is difficult to react to non-verbal cues while online. Seeing other people’s faces builds empathy and trust, encourages some level of body language expression, and prevents feelings of isolation.
Check into and out of work with your co-workers. Just as you would say “good morning” or “goodbye” as you walked in and out of the office each day, get into the habit of greeting co-workers twice a day (via Slack or another business communication tool). This hello/goodbye routine also puts your mind in ready-to-work or step-away-from-work mode.
Socialize with colleagues outside of work. Many companies with a remote work culture offer ways to socialize virtually. TrendyMinds, for example, has multiple channels in Slack, our team messaging app, for talking about common interests or organizing meetups for people in the same region. Some of our social slack channels include Philanthropy, Random & Sports, All Things Pets, Trendy Ladies (just for the women), Overheard (for funny one-liners), and state-specific channels for our employees across the country.
TrendyMinds also hosts virtual, company-wide happy hours once a month with fun themes, and our Copy Team meets virtually every morning for face-time consistency. We use any extra time during those morning check-ins to share music playlists, good books we’re reading, and TV shows we’re watching. All of this helps us — through short, daily interactions — to get to know each other socially, as we would in an office setting.
Join work-focused online communities. Remote working newsletters like remotive.io and Nodesk.co offer online communities for socializing. You can also browse books, articles, podcasts, and blogs about working away from the office for additional inspiration.
When Zoom and Google Meet feel stale for after-hours meetups, consider the metaverse or a tool like workfrom.co which lets you create beautiful, virtual co-work spaces customizable down to ambient noise options like “coffee shop.”
Reach out if you’re feeling isolated. Figure out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. Even if you're highly introverted and don't like socializing, give a few interactive experiences a try so that you're familiar with them if you ever decide you want them.
People who work from home end up typing more than they’ve ever typed in their lives because they’re typing for work and also for all work communications that used to be carried out in an in-person office setting. Give tired hands a break by using speech-to-text software, which can be enabled on any Mac by going to Settings > Keyboard > Dictation. PC users can look into Dragon to carry out the same functionality. – Ephraim Rudolph, TrendyMinds Senior Copy Specialist
Put empathy at the forefront. If you work from home with a partner, respecting each other’s schedules, work styles, and rhythms is key. Learn how housemates prefer to do their jobs, as it’s likely their tasks, managers, and teams will work differently than yours. If you share a small space and one of you needs blocks of quiet time during the day while the other spends the day in meetings, the tension can lead to a stressful work and home life. People have different ways of coping with stress too, so learning to observe each other and knowing when to support, encourage, or interrupt each other is vital.
Give each other alone time. At some point, at least one of you likely worked in an office, which means that both of you would be used to having at least some time alone, even if only during your commute or morning coffee run. Now that you are together 24/7, emotions can quickly erupt. Though it can be hard to do, it’s essential to set aside time for each of you to be alone to decompress.
Remember to breathe. And dance. Do not get so immersed in your work that you forget to take food and rest breaks. One team member often sends out random Slack notices for others to “Stop whatever you’re doing, play a song, turn it up to 11, and DANCE and SING for five minutes right now!” We often don’t realize how tense we are until we step away, stretch, take in some sunlight, or dance.
Keep furry friends close by. By far one of the biggest perks of working from home is being able to spend more time with our pets. Frustrating meeting? Give your pet a belly rub and watch that stress vanish.
Eat away from your desk. You likely wouldn’t eat at your desk in an office setting, so why do it at home? Be sure to eat in a different space than where you work. If you’re into it, set up virtual lunches and eat with co-workers the way you would in an office lounge. TrendyMinds will often send UberEats credits to employees for “working lunches,” so we can meet and eat together virtually and discuss important company announcements.
Change your location, change your mood. Tired of the view from your desk? If your work atmosphere needs a kick, change your location. Work in another room, or outside on your balcony or patio. Rent a shared office space or set up at your local coffee shop or wine bar where you’ll find fellow digital nomads immersed in their laptops. Switch things up when you need to, and because you can.
Get out. Go to the gym in the middle of the day. Run or walk your dog. Go grocery shopping during non-peak hours. Multitask work with some home chores so your weekends can actually be spent weekending rather than doing laundry, yardwork, or getting your oil changed. Make appointments with difficult-to-get-into professionals — because you’re available at 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Spend some time outside every day, even if the weather isn't perfect. – Kristina Meek, TrendyMinds Healthcare Copy and Content Director
If you are free of the responsibility of children and pets, and you have a remote job, you really can work anywhere. Consider Airbnb’ing your home or apartment and take a look at Nomadlist.com. Spin the globe, drop a pin, and join a community of remote workers living around the world.
Just like a 9-to-5 job, working remotely does come with challenges. But it also provides some pretty unique perks. Take advantage of them. You deserve it.