The psychological effects of working from home during a global pandemic

Ugis Briedis 20.04.2021

“Can there really be any major psychological effects of working from home on a person?” you may ask. Normally with the occasional stay-at-home workday once every few months – probably not. But then the pandemic hit.

In this article, I share my own experience with working from home and the psychological effects it had on me, as well as explore the steps I took and keep taking to stay balanced during these trying times.

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My perspective of working freelance and in-house and how I dealt with work from home

Once upon a time, we celebrated the arrival of the year 2020 – everybody met together and had a good old party with friends, music, and all the good stuff. Remember those days? Seems like a lifetime ago. March that same year came as a harsh wake-up call to all of us. 

At this time I was enjoying my freelance strategic consultancy life. I’d obviously heard about the on-goings in China and other parts of the globe, but the news seemed like something too far away from my reality. Boy, was I wrong.

Managing work from home pre- and post-pandemic

I’d been a freelancer for quite some time before taking up the CMO position at DeskTime. Working from home was nothing new to me. I was used to it. But the sudden realization that it had now become the only option and an obligation even came down hard on a lot of people, including myself. Especially those who were used to office life and saw their homes somewhat as their personal after-hours relaxation temples. 

As soon as the lockdowns began I saw an influx of friends and business partners bringing up the topic of how to manage work from home. My first reaction was puzzlement – was it really that different? As a freelancer, I’d grown accustomed to splitting time between my daily tasks and leisure activities while in the comfort of my home. I’d never had any problems balancing my life this way.

How to deal with the psychological effects of working from home
How to deal with the psychological effects of working from home when sharing a space with your partner. Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

It was only until my partner started working from our home, too, that the question of how to cope with this situation even came up. The dynamics had changed – I was no longer alone. The end of my workday was no longer marked by the moment she came home. We both had to bring our work into our living space. And that changed a lot because I suddenly realized that the 4 walls of my home had become my whole life. 

At this point it hit me – if I was about to keep my mental health and relationship in check, I needed to find ways to switch off my brain completely. I was not about to let those 4 walls close in on me.

How I dealt with the psychological effects of working from home

If we’re on the topic of the psychological effects of working from home, here’s one for you – I started working at DeskTime in September 2020. We went on full lockdown soon after and there are still colleagues I’ve only met online. It’s weird, to say the least. And weird probably isn’t the space any of us are comfortable in. 

Once I wrapped my head around the fact that life most likely wasn’t going to go back to normal in a month or two, I took up researching effective time management. I was already good at compartmentalizing, but after reading “Make Time” by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, I realized there were still things I needed to improve. The main take-away I got was to make time for everything in my day – work and leisure alike. And on top of that, I also had to find my release – something I could do to clear my head and forget about the challenges I was facing. 

I found my escape in gadgets. I have a real love for photography, more precisely – air photography and droning. I also enjoy gaming (team Xbox) and cycling. Luckily for me, 2 out of the 3 are semi-solo activities and require being outdoors more often than not. I got to combine getting some fresh air while socially distancing and being safe. Win-win!

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Droning – my breezy way of coping with work from home

This is probably the most interesting hobby I picked up pre-pandemic. It might seem like an unconventional approach to mental health, but let me explain. The ability to see nature in all its glory from a bird’s perspective is truly freeing. It not only takes your breath away but also helps clear the mind and step out of your stuffy little mental box. See the bigger picture, you know?

Dealing with isolation and social distancing when working from home. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Gaming – my way of escaping reality 

As cliche as it might sound, gaming is the best way to escape the realities and troubles of the day. You can lose yourself in colorful and immensely detailed worlds full of adventures and missions. It also comes in handy after a day of intense mental work and monotone tasks. The brain needs to relax, and it does exactly that every time you lunge through some adventure world or drive a race car. It’s a great way to leave your daily troubles behind – at least for a couple of hours.

Some might argue that gaming can make people nervous and jittery because of its competitive nature and the effect the fast frame rates have on the eyes. Sure, there’s some truth to that. I would recommend ending your gaming session at least 2 hours before bedtime. 

Gaming can be a great way to maintain your psychological well-being in times of a pandemic. Photo by Sam Pak on Unsplash

Cycling – combating the psychological with the physical 

If I had to nominate the absolute champion of helping me with the way I cope with working from home it would be cycling. Physical activities are invaluable when combating the psychological effects of working from home. It’s the best way to recharge, clear your mind, and stay in shape which was an integral part of the equation during lockdown. Nothing beats putting on your cycling gear and hitting the open road (or the digital one for that matter) with only getting the next Strava segment on your to-do list.

Another by-product of cycling is a lot of free time to listen. I’ve been able to ramp up my Audible game, and basically devour audiobooks by the dozen. Being active while learning new things and expanding your mind is something that really makes me happy. 

Cycling – a means to maintain work-life balance when working from home. Photo by Luca David on Unsplash

Tap into your passions to keep your mental health in check

Once I became a full-time employee at DeskTime, our time tracking software also became my everyday ally. Although in a way I believe I was better prepared to deal with working from home than some of my colleagues, I’ve since realized that we’re all in the same boat together. It doesn’t really matter if you work in-house or as a freelancer at home. It’s still just as hard to only see the people you work with on screens.

We’ve recently moved offices, and I still haven’t had the chance to check it out in person. It’s still sometimes hard for me to separate work deadlines from my free time since all of that happens at home. But DeskTime helps a lot with that. And so does the fact that I have my 3 hobbies to look forward to every afternoon. Besides – one truly unexpected and lucky coincidence is the fact that my colleagues at DeskTime also share my passions of droning, cycling, and gaming. 

In other words – be true to yourself

In terms of me rambling about my favorite activities outside of work – I realize this might not be what you were looking to get from the CMO of one of the best time tracking software companies out there. But trust me – there’s plenty of time to talk business during the day. What most of us should focus on now is finding ways to ignite the spark that keeps us going. We might not fully master working from home (and I truly hope this pandemic doesn’t last that long), but we can at least master ways to help us cope with this new reality in a healthy way. 

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