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Create a routine while you telework to maintain your mental health and well-being

Gov. Inslee announced his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order nearly a month ago. Since March 23, many people are learning to adjust to a new norm of working from home. 

It comes with challenges and opportunities—and possibly stress. You might be working from home for the first time and navigating new technology. You may be figuring out how to work effectively when your spouse, children or pets may also be at home. Others may feel isolated and lonely. Employers may feel lost not knowing how to best support their staff from afar. 

Whatever the cause of your stress and anxiety, it’s best to address it as soon as possible. Chronic stress may weaken your immune system, influence your ability to focus, your sleep, and your eating habits.  

Follow these steps to manage stress and mental health while you work from home: 

Limit distractions as much as you can. 

If possible, set up a comfortable and private space to work from. Keep the door shut or add physical barriers like curtains to minimize distractions. Turn off personal notifications on your phone. Figure out what you need to be productive, like soft background music or specific lighting.  

Father holds baby girl while working on laptop at home 

If you have children, talk to your family about when you are available. Set expectations and ground rules for work hours, teleconferences and phone calls to help to avoid challenges. Use physical indicators when your family shouldn’t disturb you, like a sign on your door. Establish a schedule with your partner to trade off parenting duties during work hours. 

Create a routine. 

Create structure to give yourself a sense of normalcy. Wake up at the same time every day. Dress comfortably but appropriately for all of those teleconference calls. Or, if it helps you focus, get dressed as you would if you were going to an office or public space. Set specific hours to work and stick to them. Don’t check work email before or after hours if you can avoid it.

Take care of your mental and physical health.

Incorporate breaks, physical activity and virtual social interaction into your day. Stay hydrated and eat healthy. During this stressful time, take more shorter breaks during the day to help your overall focus on work. Try to take your breaks away from your work area.

If you take any medications, continue them as directed by your doctor. Monitor your health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Call your doctor before you go in person.

Limit your media consumption if it makes you anxious. Seek positive news to balance the negative.

Find activities you enjoy to fill your time outside of work.

Be kind to yourself and expect you will have off days or weeks—it’s normal.

For employers: Show empathy and availability. 

Be available to your staff and encourage them to share how they’re doing. Use video meetings so staff can see each other. Host a virtual happy hour once a week. This is the time to be flexible with schedules, work deliverables and how your team collaborates. 

More ideas for maintaining mental health during a health emergency.

7 ways to manage your stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.