Prof. Bindu Chhabra
Specialization- Communication, OB & HR
The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on mental health. The sudden shift to a remote work setup has been surprisingly stressful for many employees due to several reasons. First, people seem to feel more alone without the necessary support they need and the sudden lack of physical connection can leave people feeling they have nowhere to turn when they feel stressed or anxious. Secondly, there is adapting to working from home, which can also contribute to an increased workload. There is the temptation to work longer hours, and for those who don't have a home office setup there's no disconnect between home and office life. The boundary between work and home life blurs for people who work in the same place they sleep. Thirdly, a new trend of back-to-back virtual meetings is emerging, which would not be possible in a physical office. With fewer opportunities for informal catchups, many people are spending more time in these meetings. As well as being a time drain, these video meetings can trigger fatigue and leave participants feeling totally disconnected. All of this amounts to heightening stress and anxiety levels, which is bad for both long term employee wellbeing and company productivity. So, how can companies and individuals do to overcome it?
Organizational approach to creating better mental health for the virtual office
To overcome these issues companies can make a few practical changes to the hybrid workplace. Introducing policies like requiring a ten-minute break between meetings and implementing meeting-free days each month can help reduce the psychological pressure of being constantly online. Scheduling smaller scale meetings where possible can also improve mental health, by giving participants more space to engage with their team and have their contributions personally acknowledged. Helping employees maintain boundaries between their personal and professional lives is equally important—particularly for workers without a separate home office. To avoid isolation, it is also important for leaders to schedule time for regular one on one catchups with team members. They should also organize social events—in-person where possible, or through virtually.
Individual approach to creating better mental health for the virtual office
Create a routine and stick to the schedule
Get to work whenever you want? Over 40% of people say their flexible schedule is the best part of working remotely. But it is how you organize those hours in your day that makes all the difference. When you organize your tasks and outline your goals, you mentally prepare yourself for what to expect during the day. Then it is easier to work towards achieving the goals you set out, rather than vaguely meandering towards them. It is important to schedule analog breaks. Set aside time to escape all forms of digital screens. Give your eyes, neck, shoulders, and back a much-needed rest!
Upgrade your home office
One survey shows 84% of remote workers get their business done from home. But do you actually like working in your home office? If you do not have a dedicated workspace, make that priority number one. Bonus points if you have an office with a door you can close to mentally and physically separate work and home life.
Get up and move!
Fight the urge to stay sedentary and schedule active time to get your heart pumping. Go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or do yoga, practice a hip-hop dance video on YouTube — whatever floats your boat. Exercising 20 to 30 minutes daily can significantly lower anxiety levels. You will also boost endorphins and serotonin to flood your brain with happiness.
Creating a stress-free workplace is the responsibility of both the employees and employing organization. Reach out to someone you trust, speak to your doctor, or find a mental health professional if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety. You are not alone. And remember, tomorrow is always a fresh start.