Let’s face it: working from home isn’t for everyone. Some people love it and others hate it. I personally love it and feel privileged to work at my own pace while not needing to engage with others — I’m an introvert, and working alone increases my productivity and creativity.
But as I said, not everyone enjoys the work-from-home lifestyle. And that’s okay. I chose to work remotely way before the pandemic hit the world. I’m a digital nomad, and I've traveled the world while working from my laptop.
However, as much as I love it, it comes with several hidden challenges that most people don’t see behind my Instagram picture of me drinking a coconut and working.
Whether you chose to work remotely or it was requested by your company, whether you love it or you hate it, remote work is here to stay and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. An article published on Forbes last December says that the future of work is remote.
A survey conducted by Gartner’s CFO revealed that over two-thirds (74%) of the companies that already have their employees working remotely plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
This means that none of us can run away from remote work and that we all should be aware of the risks, challenges, benefits and many ways that we can mitigate them before the permanency of remote work becomes a real struggle for us. In this article, we will explore all these aspects and how you can benefit from mindful practices while working from home (WFH).
The Challenges Of Working From Home
Remote work wasn’t part of the reality of most office workers before the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Many employees unexpectedly were required to transition to remote work without having other options, nor proper guidelines on how to adapt to this abrupt change.
Many might have thought it would be easy to work in PJs and have extra time to get up in the morning. It turns out that the blurred line between personal and professional life came with some costs. Let’s explore some of them.
1) The lack of designated home office spaces
Those who were used to commuting to work daily and didn’t have a dedicated space at home for work had to create improvised work setups in their living rooms, bedrooms, or kitchens.
Having work infiltrate our many personal spaces creates a blurred line between work and our personal life — as a result, it can be hard to create a work/life balance, and some might end up working extra hours, getting easily distracted, and even losing motivation.
2) Divided attention
Working parents were forced to split their attention among Zoom calls, supervising kids, work meetings, managing their own personal schedule and so on. Multitasking of any sort doesn’t really work and it also decreases productivity.
If before, people would mostly deal with their life’s other demands before or after work, now, they have to find ways to deal with childcare, personal relationships, family demands, house chores, and work all simultaneously!
3) Social Isolation
Sitting at home by yourself all day takes a toll. For both introverts and extroverts, face-to-face interactions make a difference regardless of your personality type because humans are social creatures.
We all know that socializing through Zoom calls or WhatsApp isn’t the same as happy hours, coffee breaks, and water cooler talks.
4) Screen fatigue
Employees may have difficulties unplugging after working hours and might feel the compulsion to do “one last thing,” “reply to one more email,” or book back-to-back meetings.
Screen fatigue is a thing. Because now we’re spending more time in front of screens and also working extra hours on screens — in front of any type of screens such as computers, phones, TVs — and too much screen time can lead to headaches, eye strain, dry eyes, tiredness, and reduced productivity.
5) Dress Code
No, working in PJs or with no pants doesn’t work. The way we dress sends a message to the brain which in turn creates psychological associations — scientists call it “enclothed cognition.” For instance, pajamas are connected to sleep in most people’s minds.
The Impacts of Working From Home
As a result of the unexpected changes, many workers failed to deal with the challenges and have experienced numerous negative impacts on their work. We’ve listed the main ones:
- Lower productivity
- Lower motivation
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Increased time spent on work
- Poorer mental health
As mentioned, remote work is here to stay. Suppose your company is part of the statistics that are aiming to keep their staff working from home. In that case, there are ways to regain energy and productivity, connect with your team (even remotely), and repurpose the working-from-home lifestyle. We can do that by cultivating mindful practices.
What Are The Benefits of Bringing Mindfulness To Work?
Employees working on autopilot or that are overwhelmed with work may lose touch with the present moment and get lost in thoughts and emotions like anxiety and stress.
The practice of various mindful techniques and mindfulness itself has the purpose to bring our awareness to what’s happening in the present moment — both inside and outside of ourselves.
To understand how mindfulness could work not only for monks but also for busy executives, Harvard Business Review conducted the world’s first study of a multisession mindful leader program. They trained and taught senior business leaders mindful practices, both formal and informal practices.
The findings? A significant improvement in resilience, the capacity for collaboration, and the ability to lead in complex conditions. We wrote a full article on how leaders can incorporate a mindful approach and benefit from doing so.
Great news, isn’t it? But how can we be mindful in an online working world? How can we be truly present for others when we’re physically distant? Before we dive into the ‘how’, let’s see the benefits of staying mindful while WFH.
The Benefits of Mindful Practices While WFH
Contrary to popular misconceptions, the capacity to deliver leadership presence isn’t linked to physical presence. The practice of mindfulness brings change from the inside out — regardless of workplace circumstances or the nature of job problems. In other words, you can still accomplish the benefits of presence while online and working remotely.
Mindful workers know when to close their laptops, have work/life balance, and can navigate work woes with clarity and presence. Here are 7 ways to mindfully WFH and maximize your productivity.
1) Create a sustainable morning routine
How does your morning look? Do you jump from bed 5 minutes before the time you need to be online? Or maybe sit down in your chair in pajamas and start checking emails while brushing your teeth? Time to create a morning routine. ASAP.
Remember that you don’t need to enter the 5 am club or set up 5 different activities in your morning. Do what works for you — and if you don’t know what it is, simply try different things.
A year ago, my morning routine was composed of so many activities that took me more than 2 hours to complete prior to starting my workday. Now, all I do is meditate and do yoga, and I’m good to go.
2) Define your workspace
Having a dedicated space to work is crucial. Just like the brain makes associations with pajamas and bedtime, it does similarly if you work every day from a different part of your home — which means, the brain doesn't make the link between kitchen and work. Thus, productivity levels and focus might decrease if you don’t have a dedicated, regular workspace established.
You should also avoid doing any other activity not related to work at your designated work station, such as eating, checking messages or browsing social media, reading, watching TV, etc.
3) Take breaks
Checking your phone or replying to messages during your breaks does not count. Imagine breaks being similar to when you were working at the office — things like coffee breaks, going for a walk after lunch, talking to a friend or family member, doing stretches. Remember that extended periods of time staring at screens is harmful in many ways and may cause screen fatigue.
4) Practice self-care
Taking some time for yourself is the fuel you need to recharge your batteries. Even if you’re overwhelmed with work, make sure to block at least 10 minutes of your busy schedule for yourself to do whatever makes you feel good.
Another way to practice self-care is to eat healthy and nutritious food, exercise, and have a good night’s sleep.
5) Create a meditation routine
Never meditated before? No problem. There are a myriad of resources available for you to start, from apps to books, to YouTube videos, groups, and also personal guided meditations.
At Mindful Life, Mindful Work Inc., we offer different services for those looking to begin a new or develop an existing mindfulness practice.
6) Stop multitasking
Multitasking isn’t actually as effective as most people think. In fact, it taxes the brain and lowers productivity levels. Instead of switching from one task to the other, try and focus on one at a time.
7) Set boundaries
Here you can think of any boundaries you might need that will help bring more spaciousness and ease to your remote work life — from defining what time you’ll start and end your workday, including clearly telling your family that when you’re at your desk you can’t attend to their requests, etc.
Camila Santiago is a content writer and strategist specializing in health and corporate wellness, including extensive experience writing SEO-friendly content. She writes, edits and proof-reads content on wellness topics spanning physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and does so for organizations aiming to improve overall employee wellbeing and professional excellence.