It’s the first Monday in January, which means that many who work the 9-to-5 grind will be back at their laptops for the first time since before Christmas.
In other words, the holiday period is officially over, and it’s time to return to normality – or as normal as things can be given current coronavirus restrictions.
While a lot of people will very often dread a return to work as it is, the fact that this time we’ll be doing our jobs in the exact same place that we kicked back, relaxed and celebrated Christmas is likely to make things feel even more difficult than usual.
Counselling Directory member Laurele Mitchell says: ‘Returning to work after the holidays can feel like an extreme version of the Sunday night blues that some of us experience after the weekend.
‘This can bring with it a sense of dread at the prospect of giving up our relaxed state for a more stressed one as we contemplate the demands of the weeks and months ahead.
‘And that’s all before you factor in a global pandemic and the impact that it’s already had on many of our working lives.’
Since March 2020, when working from home became the so-called ‘new normal,’ office workers across the country have been having meetings via video call and doing their jobs from makeshift workspaces in kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms.
‘As many of us discovered in 2020, working from home isn’t without its challenges,’ says Laurele.
These challenges can include loneliness, stress, and that horrible feeling of cabin fever that comes with being cooped up all day, with many parents facing the added difficulty of having to home-school their children, too.
While the home has had to double as an office for a while now, Laurele explains that for a couple of weeks over Christmas we were able to ‘reclaim our homes as places of celebration and relaxation through Christmas trees, decorations, exchanging gifts and, where permitted, loved ones visiting.’
She says: ‘When these things come down, it can leave our homes feeling a little empty at the best of times. But now we have to reintroduce work to the space where we have, for a short time, been able to switch off and unwind.’
That’s not to say that a return to work is all bad. In fact, the structure, routine and interaction with co-workers can actually have a positive impact on some people’s mental health.
For those who do struggle, though, Laurele recommends creating the best possible boundary that you can between work and home.
Managing your mental health when working from home
- Create a boundary between work and home
- Check in with yourself regularly
- Be realistic with yourself
- Make self-care a part of your working life
- Keep an eye on your work/life balance
- Reach out to loved ones or a line manager
- Plan when your next break will be
‘This might be as simple as putting your laptop out of sight at the end of the day or going for a walk in lieu of a commute; anything that helps you to draw a line between the two,’ she says.
There are other simple things you can do to keep your spirits up if you’re worried about facing the post-Christmas blues while you’re working from home.
For example, Laurele suggests checking in with yourself regularly to see how you’re feeling, to ensure that you always catch a dip in your mental health early and do something about it.
It’s important to be realistic with yourself, too, and don’t try to do too much too soon or you could upset your all-important work/life balance.
As Laurele explains: ‘It can take a while to get back into a routine and to adjust to the structure that comes with work, so slow it down and give it time.’
‘Make self-care a part of your return to work, too,’ Laurele suggests.
This could include anything from doing exercise or engaging in a hobby during your lunchbreak, or reaching out to loved ones if you need to share how you’re feeling.
‘And, if all else fails, you can book in annual leave in the coming months and plan some fun activities for it,’ says Laurele.
‘That way, you’ll have something to look forward to and can pace yourself at work accordingly, safe in the knowledge that you know when your next break will be.’
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