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Working from home during a Pandemic

The last few months (feels like years) have been a series of constant changes in how we do pretty much everything. The biggest change for many is the new task of working completely from home during a pandemic. If you are like me, you never really planned to work from home ever! Being a therapist in-person work is what I have always wanted to do. I’ve spent many hours setting my office up to create the therapeutic space I feel is the most conducive to healing. But now, I’m lucky if I get to go into my office once a month, and I haven’t seen a client face to face in over two months.

My work/life balance has been blurred, with my boundaries needing to constantly change. Job stress is at an all-time high for most of my clients, and if I’m being honest was for me at first as well. So, how do we cope with working from home during a pandemic? Here are 10 tips to help.

  1. Have a conversation with those you live with about what you need for work. You may have to compromise and get creative I live in a tiny house with my partner, but that isn’t good for the privacy of my therapist job, so they live in the car when I have sessions.
  1. Figure out how to get your pets situated so you can concentrate. We love them, we do, but pets can be a huge distraction. Maybe you need to sit somewhere they can’t get to, or have them outside for longer.
  1. Set up a dedicated workspace. There is something about having a dedicated workspace, that makes working 100x easier. Even if it is only the corner of a couch, make that space where you work, dedicated to that. This helps your brain recognize the purpose of that space and be more productive.
  1. Keep Clean. I will be the first to admit this can feel downright impossible while being in my house 24/7, but it also can be helpful. Having a clean space, especially where you are sitting all day can do wonders for your mental health. Take a few mins each morning to tidy up your space and see what a difference it can make!
  1. Get dressed. Again, practically impossible when there is really no need most of the time to look presentable (maybe the top half if you do video conferencing). However, getting dressed can create that shift in your brain that tells you, now is work time. I’ve also noticed that when I put on real pants, I’m more likely to FEEL like I’m actually at work.
  1. Schedule breaks. When you do nothing but stare at a screen all day, it can be really hard to recognize the turning of the day, or even to get motivated and work. Creating a schedule can help you to stay on track when you need to, but it can also help you recognize the day. When you have dedicated time for lunch or other breaks, it can truly feel like a break, rather than just a min or two you got distracted.
  1. Go for a walk. So about those breaks, try to use them to not be on a screen. Maybe you do just need a few mins to play a game on your phone, but going outside, looking at the plants and breathing in some fresh air will always help you to calm down a bit, and get more in touch with reality, rather that this universe behind our laptop screens.
  1. Be ready to try different things. Some days, you may need to stay in bed while other days you may feel more productive. Having a routine and schedule can be helpful, but you need to be able to make some changes and have flexibility, this requires being in tune with yourself, so maybe a quick morning check-in with your journal is in order.
  1. Create firm boundaries. Some things do need to change, but you still need firm lines to keep work from invading your life. My partner has a work laptop that physically goes into a drawer at the end of the day, and does not come out until the next workday. I have two specific times set to check my work email, and I don’t return calls (unless they are emergency) outside of my “work hours”. Remember it may feel like your house is your workplace, but it’s not and there needs to be some space!
  1. Know that this situation is impossible, and we are all living through it together for the first time. Nobody knows how to handle a global pandemic. Nobody knows how to work from home during a pandemic. Give yourself a break if working from home isn’t easy for you. Take a breath. You have got this, and if you need someone alongside you to help you sort it out, reach out to a therapist today.

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