Working Remotely? Put Your Health and Wellness First

There is one golden rule to effective remote work: you cannot do your best if you do not feel it.

Nobody is a machine, and no “proven tips” or marketing-speak insights are going to solve this dilemma. What really works is respecting the human angle; understanding yourself, what you need to be good to yourself and your career, and how you can make it happen. Working remotely is only as complicated as we enable it to be.

The trouble is, many employers and news outlets are behaving as if remote commuting is a relatively new phenomenon or “trend,” when in actuality it is a much more viable, safer and cost-effective alternative that some businesses have utilized for years beforehand. Therefore, there are a lot of misconceptions about what really works. As more companies such as Slack, Twitter and Shopify are making the permanent switch, it has never been more important to keep mental health in the spotlight as a priority at work and home.  

We will now explore this in more detail.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Ergonomics

Regardless of whether or not an employer provides ergonomic solutions for working at home, you owe it to yourself to do what needs to be done. Taking care of your mental health means taking proactive steps and not waiting. For instance, if your back requires adjustable lumbar support and tension knobs with proper neck strain relief, then a well-made chair designed for long periods of sitting can save your life in the long run while improving focus. The same goes for the keyboard; using a flat, thirty-dollar rectangle with no wrist rest for eight hours a day is going to cause serious problems. Being free from pain, strain and discomfort means working more efficiently, and doing well at work also means feeling better. 

We’ll touch on the real risks of inadequate setups later in this article.

Natural Light and Balance

Working at home demands balance, but it also enables for it in ways a traditional office environment never could. Walk the dog after your morning tasks are complete, leave the computer for half an hour to fix a healthy lunch, book a staycation for a mental break, or simply sit outside and do some stretches in the sun for a bit – you deserve to feel good every day. It cannot always be about grinding away on a keyboard. This leads to a more positive and optimistic mindset as well as an improved willingness to get things done when it is time to sit back down. Natural light and limiting distractions as best as possible are other critical steps. Even if it does involve an initial investment to make it happen, the long-term benefits are tremendous. 

Embrace the At-Home Environment and Enable Proper Support

Employers can promote workshops and team-building activities until they are blue in the face, but these are not cure-alls. Genuine support from those who deeply understand employees is what empowers them the most – often from those for whom they are making a living to support. 

This is where loved ones and fellow household members can save the day. Rather than shutting yourself away from everyone else to “focus,” consider spouses, children and even the family dog as your personal cheering squad. You can then count on them to care in the right ways, offering emotional support and anxiety relief when stress levels get too high. This is not about “using” those who mean so much to us so much as knowing their love and connections can be highly therapeutic. 

In this sense, embracing the at-home environment is conducive to a happy, healthy remote career. 

Risks of Inadequate Remote Workstations and Insufficient Support

  • Tension headaches
  • Blood flow problems that can reduce cognitive awareness (plus physical risks such as clots)
  • Eyestrain and reduced focus
  • Irritability and reduced mood control
  • Heightened stress levels
  • Debilitating burnout and/or mental shutdowns to self-recover
  • Snappier, more negative reactivity to difficulties on the job
  • Discomfort that detracts from performance capabilities

Not everyone takes these risks seriously but that does not mean that you should follow in their wake. Employers may also not have the resources or funds needed to help you in every way, so it cannot all be placed on their shoulders. Even if something that helps you work ergonomically and safely happens to cost more, put the valuation aside and consider the long-term savings in terms of your mental health, wellness, and career performance.

Maintaining Self-Value

Many remote workers who do not prioritize taking care of themselves face an uphill battle in remaining a viable business asset. Our hearts break when we work with employees who are misinterpreted as lazy or incompetent and lose their jobs due to burnout; there is no black and white when it comes to remote commuting. Modern thinking and adaptability are musts nowadays.

Our best advice is that, by looking after yourself, you also look after your long-term value and employability. It could very well be that remote commuting becomes a permanent staple of most businesses in the future, so finding ways to practice self-care, utilize ergonomics and harness proper emotional support can go a long way in protecting your career. This is how you can contribute your absolute best within your place of employment.  

You are not alone. If you need thoughtful, attentive guidance on how best to optimize your remote work environment, our Ottawa therapists are happy to assist and will listen to your needs intently. Feel free to reach out to us today.