Staying Mentally Healthy in our Crazy World
Oct 21, 2020
A fellow team member, someone who usually works on-site, recently explained her current home-bound working status: “I’m not working from home,” she said. “I am at home during a crisis, trying to work.”
Many of us in tech are now working from home (or “from anywhere”), and we are very aware of why it is needed, while also experiencing some of its shortcomings. Even when some of us did work remotely before the pandemic happened, we still had other opportunities to change our setting—sitting in a coffee shop or going to a co-working space. The difference between then and now is pretty stark.
Working from home requires a well-prepared routine and a place to work without disruption. In many cases, the pandemic has thrown many people into a household trying to find their own spaces to work, including those with children who have to attend school virtually and taking care of aging or at-risk family members. The transition is sudden and unexpected.
What has become clear is that working from home successfully takes time. It also requires grace and self-care to manage the added stress created by our new situations and find a new way to focus. We have to realize that in some cases, it is not just a work management crisis—it is an existential one.
The seven Cs of stress
The book The Seven Cs of Stress: A Burkean Approach, Stan A. Lindsay, Ph.D., offers a list of stresses we all experience. The list includes:
- Corporal stress, or physical stresses that can range from higher heart rates to nausea
- Community stress, or the discomfort of social interaction (or the lack thereof)
- Cash stress, where one becomes concerned with losing employment or managing unexpected financial strains
- Chrono stress, which involves concern over deadlines and time management
- Competence stress, where one questions their ability to complete a job effectively
- Confusion stress, which usually manifests as a lack of organization
- Conscientious stress, or how one manages moral or ethical obligations
Staying in place during this pandemic, worrying about job security, and being responsible for our health and others’ health can trigger all seven simultaneously. Managing a couple of stressors is difficult enough. Fortunately, many workplaces are stepping in to help employees manage the stress in healthy ways while also managing work and maintaining work relationships.
Although each of us faces a different set of challenges, we all can answer the question, “What works best for me in my situation?” Once we understand this, it is crucial to stay intentional and deliberate.
Being intentional requires creating new boundaries. It is essential to address when and where you will work and prioritize each project based on the team’s needs.
Bridging the gap between self-care and work relationships can further relieve specific stresses and make self-care more manageable.
While we are spending more time at home than usual, many of us may feel isolated and disconnected from our coworkers. This disconnection can strain communication and create confusion. Here are a few ways to nurture team connections and maintain deadlines:
- Develop strategies for staying connected using online group platforms, group text, or a quick daily stand up with a conference call (it doesn’t have to be a video call every time) and have a dialed agenda & outcomes.
- Make frequent check-ins with project teams and owners to show your work and how you are continuing to help them.
- Remind yourself that not all projects are a priority right now.
- Intentionally build-in break times to your day, click here
- Try to keep meetings on schedule or provide email/Quip/Slack updates if meetings must be canceled.
- Encourage participation during remote meetings.
- Since you cannot walk down the hall to discuss a project with someone, it’s good to plan ahead.
- Check on everyone’s critical needs; they are probably struggling, too.
- Openly reference and de-risk the use of workplace mental health platforms and benefits.
- Add a dose of humor, click here.
Over-communication is vital when working remotely. With on-site meetings, we can read faces and respond to visual cues. Emails, chat rooms, and conference calls don’t always offer the same opportunities. It’s important to provide the details needed to create more clarity.
With some mindful preparation between work routines, home life, self-care, a dash of humor, and more communication, the chaos that starts out as trying to work can transition to working successfully from home within a few weeks. You may find the skills you develop at home will benefit you just as much in the office when you finally return.