Remote work offers numerous advantages, and is increasingly being adopted worldwide due to the flexibility it affords employees but if we are being honest, remote work is not 100% rosy. Nothing is.
Most remote workers and freelancers agree that the transition to remote work is worth it. In the State of Remote Work 2020 Report, 82% of remote workers interviewed stated that they do not ever plan to return to a traditional work setting. Only 18% said they would consider a return given favourable conditions.
Working from home can be enjoyable and safe. You fix your schedule into your personal life and don’t have to worry about bumping into pervy Mr. X on your way to get coffee. But here’s a PSA, remote work can challenge your mental health and turn your optimistic, bubbly and productive worker bee self into an unmotivated turtle.
In the report shared above, being unable to separate work-time and personal-time, along with fighting loneliness were the two biggest challenges faced by remote workers at 27% each.
If you’re a remote worker or freelancer who has noticed a shift in your mental health, we recommend that you take some time to fix your mind before you hit the bottom.
Below are a few helpful tips to protect and strengthen your mental health as a remote worker or freelancer.
Create a Routine and Stick to It
Organizing your hours in a day makes a difference. A schedule is a net for catching days and a tool to free your mind.
Routines provide stability and a good foundation in your life, something that remote work and freelancing unintentionally take away.
To get yourself back to optimum productivity, you must lay some ground rules about how each work week should go. No more impulsive friends-hangout, travel or running errands. These unplanned breaks make it harder to focus and get your work done as efficiently as you used to.
Outlining your tasks and main goals for the day/week ahead of time gives you a screenshot of what to expect by the end. View this day plan from The Hustle is Female below, you can use it as a guide to plan your own remote work days.
Remember, it’s one thing to have a plan and another to stick to it.
Join a Co-working Space
Joining a co-working space or working with other remote workers and freelancers or entrepreneurs helps combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Co-working spaces are great because they give you a sense of community that promotes interaction and collaboration without the burden of mandatory socializing and showing off what you’re working on.
Research by the Harvard Business Review indicates that freelancers who combine a well-designed work environment with their work from home are more likely to thrive compared to their office-based counterparts.
So defeat feelings of isolation by deliberately interacting with other human beings. You can even fix time in your day/week plan to socialize if you’re an introvert. You don’t want to lose your people skills now, do you?
Make an office in your home
Don’t have a dedicated office in your home? It’s time to create some space just for work. Organizing a specific workspace will help you get into the right frame of mind for work each day.
You may not be leaving your home but you can indeed step into your office in your home.
Having an office helps you separate work-time from home-time, which is one of the two biggest challenges for remote workers and freelancers in the report.
Having this space in your home also sends a clear message to the household that you’re working if you live within a family or with other people.
Make sure your desk and chair are comfortable. Get yourself decor and knick-knacks that make you feel good. It’s your home, not an office office, so feel free to be as creative and personal as you need to be to create a space that helps you work well.
If you have the money, get a printer, scanner, and maybe a coffee maker, so your workflow is not disrupted when you have to do any of these things.
Most important, don’t forget your headphones and favourite playlists to get your mind in the best mood.
Master The Art of Saying No
Know your limits. There’s only so much you can do in a day. If you have a lot on your plate, there is no reason for you to take on more.
Set a workload max. limit and make a conscious effort not to go beyond it.
It is better to politely decline a client’s request and focus on your current workload, than accept a job, add it to your work pile, and then stress about it, until you have a mental breakdown.
Learn to Handle Rejections Well
Working for yourself means rejections are always in your face, and frequent no’s and rejections can undermine anyone’s confidence.
Always have it in mind that your pitch may be rejected but you’re not the one being rejected. It is frustrating especially when you’re far along in the sales cycle and have bills to pay, but it is part of the process.
Don’t beat yourself up and keep pitching your way forward. Remind yourself of past achievements and that everyone faces rejection in their lives.
Have Enough Sleep
According to research by Harvard Health, sleep and mental health are so closely related. Deprivation of sleep affects your psychological state and mental health deeply.
It’s important that you start practicing a healthy sleep habit. Experts have recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep for better productivity.
If you’re having just 4-5 hours of sleep in a day, you’re doing it wrong and possibly endangering your health.
Make sure to fit sleep into your day plan, and remember to stick to it. It’s such a cheap and painless way to fix your life and health.
Separate Your Identity From Your Work
This is a big one. You are not your work.
You are not being judged by clients. You are not being rejected by clients. You are not the laziest worker who ever lived. You are not dumb because you can’t finish a task quickly enough on your own. You are not [insert whatever negative word you often call yourself].
You are separate from your remote work or freelance business, and you are loved and respected.
Protect your mental health by reminding yourself of these little, positive, true facts; knowing you are more than what you do, and that you are not tied to your current job situation.
You can and should make a change if a client, boss, job or work style isn’t working for you.
If you find that none of the above helps, and you are spiralling into a dark place, please reach out to someone you trust and talk it out. This helps you figure exactly what bothers you and can adjust your perspective.
If you are still struggling even then, it’s time to meet with a mental health professional.
It’s okay to not be okay for a while, but if you are not okay for a long time, please call someone.