How to telework and stay healthy too

  • Published
  • By Ms. Mary Arnold, LCSW
  • 301st Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has forced people worldwide to change their normal routines and way of life. Teleworking or telecommuting in order to still attain mission goals and stay healthy is an example of this. Change like this can present various challenges and positives. Ms. Mary Arnold, the 301st Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health shared the below information to help members succeed no matter where they physically work.

Q: How does teleworking typically affect someone mentally?

A: There are various ways that teleworking can affect someone. Many people have a positive experience with teleworking, including reduced stress from no commutes and increased productivity due to fewer interruptions throughout the day. People may also experience disconnection and isolation from their co-workers and other interactions, which may lead to depression, sleep disturbances, and health issues.

Q: What are good things that can happen mentally/physically?

A: No commuting to the office means more time with family! This is the number one thing most people enjoy about teleworking. Other positives include increased flexibility in scheduling, less interruptions from coworkers and supervisors can lead to reduced stress and increased productivity. People are in control of their own schedules which is also empowering. People set up their own work space, which means a more personalized and comfortable working environment. This also reduces stress and increases productivity.

Q: What are some challenges that people typically face mentally?

A: Those who telework often lose social interactions and feel a disconnection from co-workers. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, negatively impacting the worker. Sometimes people have a difficult time staying within telework hours. This may lead to working too many hours and having a hard time separating between work life and home life. Some may also struggle with a lack of necessary technology to do their job. Getting connected to networks, emails, and other required programs can be extremely difficult and people may experience frustration or anger when they do not have the tools they need; especially if expectations are that the person will continue to perform as if in the office. Some also have decreased creativity and productivity because they need contact with others for motivation and encouragement.

Q: What are some tips/tricks that can help us stay healthy while teleworking?

A: Self care is important to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

-It is important to take breaks. Go outside, enjoy the sunshine! Continue with regular exercise routines (or start one if you don't already have one). There are many gyms and exercise programs that are offering online and other virtual substitutes ... and many of them are free. Take advantage of these opportunities!

-It is also important to have a designated work area that is set up with all the things you need to work. You don't have to have an "office" or even a desk, but a space that is designated for working will help with building a routine. It should be comfortable and have enough space for everything you need to perform your duties.

-Eat healthy meals and snacks at designated times. We don't typically eat all day at the office, so don't do it at home either. But, DO take a lunch break. The weather is beautiful right now, so go on your back porch and enjoy the sunshine while eating a healthy meal.

-Set your alarm or use a time-tracking application to prevent over working. When your workday has ended, put your computer away and enjoy your evening. Overworking will lead to stress and burnout. Take advantage of the extra time you have right now!

Staying organized will help you get all of your tasks completed and to reduce stress. Make a "To Do" list for the day and/or week and work from that. Focus helps us to remain in control and be productive.

Q: What are ways we can stay connected where it fills our social interaction cup up?

A: Use technology to have team get togethers ... Zoom a meeting every few days. FaceTime or Skype each other. Have virtual lunches. Text to "check in" with others. We are living in a world where technology is abundant (almost so abundant that we have forgotten how to have face-to-face interactions). Take advantage of all of the platforms available to keep in touch with your coworkers AND your family and friends.

Q: Is there anything you'd like to add?

A: This is an unprecedented time of isolation. Remember that while some may see this as a much needed break, others are dealing with depression from loneliness, fears of getting sick, anxiety about a loss of income, frustration from being "stuck at home" with the kids... these and a multitude of other stressors. Check in on your people. Make sure they have what they need. Be there (6 ft. apart smiley).