A Balancing Act

The young professional’s guide to mental health while remote working and career planning

Remote working has unique challenges that are different from working in an office. Adapting as a young professional can be taxing, so how do you manage it?

From Homes To Offices

2020 was an unprecedented year for most young professionals. Many hopefuls successfully graduated and found themselves with great opportunities to climb the career ladder at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, their lives were taken for a spin once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. National lockdowns forced businesses to adopt remote workflows, effectively turning homes into workplaces.

Remote working is perhaps the biggest concern for young professionals these days. While it initially sounded great to work from home as the world weathered the pandemic, the reality was a lot harsher than we could’ve imagined. Remote working forced us into unhealthy habits, it damaged our mental health, and it limited the potential of many young workers that had only just joined their industries. This isn’t true for everyone of course, but it’s how the vast majority of young remote workers were feeling throughout 2020.

But that didn’t stop them from chasing success.

Young professionals are a hungry breed of employee that will stop at nothing to climb the career ladder and obtain success. Unfortunately, this hard-working nature is a double-edged sword that can end their career if they’re not careful. Overworking yourself in a remote environment can create many unhealthy habits, eventually leading to poor mental health and a feeling that you’ve hit a roadblock in your career. With few companies hiring, young professionals have found themselves trapped in their home offices by the COVID-19 virus.

So in this guide, we’re going to talk about the importance of looking after your wellbeing while remote working. We’re going to focus on young professionals and how they can progress their careers despite all of the challenges that come with remote working.

Lockdown & The Rise Of Remote Working

Why remote working is on the rise as a result of the pandemic

Globally, COVID-19 has over 91.4 million cases with just over 1.9 million confirmed deaths as of writing. This is a strong case for initiating lockdowns across the world in order to prevent the spread of the virus. By closing non-essential businesses and limiting travel options, lockdowns hope to slow down the spread of the virus while still maintaining the economy. In order to do this, many people need to switch to remote working positions with help from cloud-based workflows and other online-based systems.

This is the main reason why remote working is on the rise; it’s a countermeasure against lockdowns that prevent employees from coming to work. However, it’s also in the best interests of the business itself. Nobody wants their employees to get sick and being unable to work, so keeping them safe at home where they can still be productive is usually the best course of action.

It’s estimated that around 56% of the U.S. workforce currently has a job that is compatible, even if partially, with remote working. However, we also know that only 3.6% of the employee workforce actually practices this. Data from 2016 shows that 43% of the workforce does work from home at least some of the time, but this data was well before the lockdowns began.

With current data, it’s estimated that up to 30% of the workforce could be working from home by the end of 2021. This is due to a combination of factors:

  • Businesses are starting to realize that work-from-home employees can be just as effective if given the right tools.
  • It lowers operating costs since a smaller office can be used to run the business.
  • More people are starting to overcome the challenges of working from home as they get accustomed to it.
  • Reduced employee commuting means a lower carbon footprint for everyone.
  • It opens up more recruitment opportunities across the world.

There are certainly benefits for both employees and employers when it comes to remote working, but it’s also surprisingly taxing on our mental health.

Remote Working & Mental Health

Why does remote working take a toll on our mental health?

Working from home has many psychological effects that a lot of people simply weren’t prepared for. This is something that freelancers and existing remote working employees had to cope with even before the pandemic, but it’s only recently coming to light due to the huge influx of remote working employees now.

Here are some of the most common problems that remote workers face when it comes to their mental health:

  • Pressure to work extra hours or hours that they’re not accustomed to.
  • Difficulties unplugging from work due to it being accessible on their computer or laptop.
  • Loneliness due to a lack of colleagues to speak to in-person.
  • Isolation due to being stuck at home because of lockdowns.
  • Stress due to a lack of time management skills that are required when working from home.
  • Depression caused by a lack of tangible career progress.

That last point is particularly important because depression can have far-reaching effects. The symptoms of depression can include bursts of anger, anxiety, agitation, increased cravings for food, or even unexplained physical problems like headaches and back pain. If you notice any of these symptoms when you work from home, then there’s a possibility that remote working has caused you to develop depression.

Thankfully, your mental health doesn’t have to suffer as a result of working from home as long as you take the right approach.

Remote Working Employee Actions

Addressing the challenges of remote working as an employee

Taking care of your mental health when working from home is important. Few people realize that burnout is a real medical condition that can easily affect people that work from home. In fact, 82% of remote working professionals said they experienced some kind of burnout while working from home, 52% of remote employees said they ended up working longer hours compared to when they were working in the office, and another 40% said they felt pressured to perform better and contribute more.

This shows that there are real consequences to working from home, especially if you’re not prepared. If it’s your first time working remotely, then it’s important to listen to advice from remote working professionals in order to take better care of your mental health. Here are some practical tips for young professionals to take better care of their mental health when working from home.

  • Stick to a schedule. Although 40% of remote workers say that a flexible schedule is one of the biggest benefits of working from home, not sticking to a schedule can actually be detrimental. Having a predictable schedule is much easier on your mental health and ensures that you only work the hours you’re supposed to.
  • Schedule regular breaks. It can be easy to forget to take a break because you’re more comfortable in a home environment. Make sure you schedule breaks now and then to ensure that you don’t overwork yourself. Give yourself some time to relax between work sessions.
  • Create a comfortable work environment. A comfortable work environment will help you stay focused and relaxed. Make sure you have a great chair that is comfortable, ensure your desk is organized and has plenty of storage, and make sure your computer or laptop is at a height that is comfortable to use.
  • Remove distractions. Distractions can prolong your work hours and make it hard to stay focused.
  • Consider co-working spaces as an option. Some people find that co-working spaces encourage them to be more productive. It’s also a good option if you find it hard to avoid distractions at home, but of course bear in mind the lockdown situation in your area.
  • Understand your limits. Working at home is no excuse to push yourself further than you normally would. Make sure you understand your limits and stick to a schedule so you avoid overworking yourself.
  • Unplug from your work–literally. It’s important to unplug yourself from work if you find yourself staying up late to do last-minute things. Try literally unplugging by turning off your laptop and ignoring any calls or messages to your work phone.
  • Don’t forget to communicate and engage. Despite feeling isolated at home, it’s a good idea to remember that you can still communicate and engage with people in order to further your career and be productive. Use messaging programs, video calls, and regular calls to stay in touch with colleagues and communicate effectively with senior managers.

It’s difficult to determine the best course of action to take if working remotely is mentally taxing for you. Everyone has their own problems, so it’s important to identify the issues that concern you the most so that you can deal with them step by step.

Remote Working Employer Responsibilities

Addressing the challenges of remote working as an employer

A young professional doesn’t need to be an employee. “Young professional” can also be used to describe a line manager or even a young entrepreneur. If you’re in a leadership position in charge of multiple employees, then you also have a responsibility to look out for your team and their mental wellbeing.

A survey carried out by FlexJobs showed that around 40% of people have experienced burnout that is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, around 37% of employed respondents said they were working longer hours than usual due to complications and unfamiliarity when working from home. As an employer or manager, it’s important that you look out for the wellbeing of your staff and seek ways to improve their remote working experience. This can help them stay productive, healthy to ultimately boost your business.

  • Make mental wellbeing a priority. Far too many businesses overlook the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace. This makes it even less likely that companies will be paying attention to mental wellbeing now that employees work from home. Burnout is a real issue that affects many workers around the world, so it’s important to make mental wellbeing a priority instead of an afterthought. Be proactive about your approach to mental wellbeing and you’ll find that your employees will be happier, more productive, and more likely to continue working with your company.
  • Establish new channels of communication. Hearing from your employees is important, especially if they’re relatively new to remote working and the flexibility that it can offer. Stay in touch with employees by opening new channels of communication such as instant messaging with services like Slack, or check in on a weekly basis by emailing all of your team to give them an update on your projects and expectations. These channels should be used freely by encouraging your staff to come to you with any questions, concerns, or even if they have a lack of direction.
  • Consider individual needs. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented complication for businesses. As a result, there are likely going to be many unique circumstances that arise as a result of it. For example, parents may need to spend more time at home tutoring their children and preparing them for exams, or they might need extra help with home responsibilities and commitments. As such, you should always consider the individual needs of your staff and adjust accordingly but within reason.

Taking care of your employees is difficult, especially during these challenging times with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you can minimize the impact it has on your business by taking care of your team and keeping their mental wellbeing in mind.

Adapting To Remote Working

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly having a massive impact on American mental health and wellbeing. It’s more important than ever before to consider your mental health as you work from home, especially if you’re concerned about personal commitments or even planning ahead with your career choices. COVID-19 has pulled the brakes on many of our careers, and the psychological damage it’s caused is immeasurable.

But with the right approach, it’s possible to stay positive, productive, and look ahead to the future in regards to your career. Whether you’re a young professional taking up their first management role or an employee hungry to climb the career ladder, balancing your wellbeing with your work responsibilities is the key to staying healthy both physically and mentally.

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