They are currently going viral on Tiktok and Instagram: the videos of the “mental health walk”. What is hyped as a trend and used as a safe “grab the likes” strategy on social media platforms could end up playing a major role in the context of home office. The discourse, the conversation about our mental health is in full swing. Mental illnesses, from panic attacks to depression and burn-out syndrome are no longer a taboo subject. On the contrary: we need to talk about it!
Home office is a thing. We at ZUCKER.Berlin are now used to working within our own four walls – we love our home office! But we also love the office community. We tried to set up a flexible solution, we can book a desk in the office at any time and arrange to meet our colleagues there, but this might not be so easy for others. There are many reasons for this: long commutes, childcare, COVID protection measures, etc. Remote working has its advantages, there is no denying it, but we should not lose sight of its potential downsides as they can have serious consequences.
Home office meets therapy? Doesn’t have to…
According to a study by the DAK health insurance fund, the lack of contact with colleagues is seen as the biggest disadvantage of the home office. A Statista survey also shows that the lack of separation between work and private life and an additional workload due to childcare, for example, lead to stress and problems in the home office. Another survey shows that the majority perceive a blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure. The Tagesschau also writes that half of the employees “perceive their home office situation as strongly or extremely stressful, and for single parents or low-income earners the figure is as high as 62 per cent.”
Feeling lonely because you do not see your colleagues physically, feeling stressed for not being able to escape your house and its chores, feeling like your favorite hobbies do not feel any different from work… All these factors can take their toll on your mental health. On anyone. You can also add to that an increasing pressure to perform, which might not even come from your direct management, but from our own expectations: “Boss doesn’t see what I’m doing, so I have to try all the harder and perform”. 42% of Germans working in home offices agreed this feeling was all-too-familiar, according to a survey by the HubSpot platform for a CRM study on the topic of home offices.
So what do you do when the home office blues kicks in and the daily trip to the office is unfortunately not an alternative, for whatever reason?
This is what you should pay attention to in the home office
First step: try to regularly reflect on how you are doing at the moment, what is going well in your home office and what is not so good, what may be distracting you, what you are worrying about in your home office and what caused these worries. It makes sense to have this kind of reflection once a week, for example, shortly before you finish work on Wednesday, and to record it in writing so that you can later see how things have developed. If there is a need for change, you have until the end of the week to address certain issues or to optimise them yourself as much as possible.
We are primarily talking about the “little things” that can positively influence our work in the home office. These include the right workplace equipment with a suitable desk and chair, sufficient lighting, fresh air and enough water. A balanced diet, regular breaks (rather shorter and more often than one long rest), breathing and relaxation exercises for in between and exercise in the form of e.g. the “Mental Health Walks” mentioned at the beginning also contribute to mental well-being and productivity in the home office. Recently, we also introduced you to the positive effects of indoor plants on work in the home office. These are factors you can directly have an impact on in order to improve the working atmosphere. In addition, there is also contact with colleagues via video chat as an alternative to direct contact (for example, ZUCKER.Berlin holds – voluntary – virtual secret coffee meetings every week, where two colleagues can exchange and socialise with one another about anything but work), regular working hours, consistent avoidance of overtime and the establishment of new elements to structure your daily life, such as the spatial separation of work and free time. Those who have the privilege of having a separate study can consider themselves lucky. If, on the other hand, your living room also functions as a study, it might be a good idea to set up a work corner with a table and chair rather than working on the sofa or the floor. If you share your flat, you can avoid disturbances during working hours with something as simple as putting up door signs or discussing it with your roommates or your partner.
However, you might not be able to do it all on your own: communication is key, so talk with your team leads, supervisors or the HR department. The high pressure to perform, the additional workload due to childcare or generally more stress can be tackled with the right support: share your concerns with people who can help you solve the problem. Openness and honesty pay off, because through such conversations, action can be taken together to alleviate stress, pressure and strain.
We will however underline it here: the stress of the home office can create in some people lasting psychological issues that we cannot solve on our own or within our firm. Self-reflection will help you identify the issues, and once you are aware of them, you can look for help and seek it. First of all, talk to your friends, family, flatmates or other people close to you, or turn directly to the professionals. There is nothing wrong with getting help – quite the opposite. If you have the opportunity, use it and take care of yourself.
Of course, we at ZUCKER.Berlin can’t tell you how to deal with your problems, fears and worries at home. Everyone has different thoughts, everyone has something else on their mind. What we can do, however, is draw attention to the topic of mental health and thus at least de-taboo it in our circle. If there is one thing we can do, it is communicate. Again, communication is key!
Title picture: Hannah Wei / Unsplash