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How work from home could be damaging us

We are now living in the “new normal.” For the past few months, physical distancing and social curfews have been part of our daily routine, and they look like they’re here to stay for a while. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to adjust our usual ways and develop new habits to sustain our way of life. One of the major adjustments many of us have had to make was to work from home.

Many industries have started giving their employees the option of working from home to protect the health and welfare of their workforce. Working from home is seen as a convenient way to be more engaged and productive in doing work. But is it truly productive? Do we really get to maximize the time to produce the most value in our work?

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Divided attention. One of the main struggles for most work-from-home employees is having to deal with household responsibilities, especially when it comes to managing children. There may be times when we have to shift priorities and juggle work. It creates a dual role that adds more pressure and stress on top of the ones we have to deal with at work. It also creates tension on how we deal with family matters, which can affect our relationships with loved ones.

Need for space. We usually allot most of our work during office hours and we finish it when we leave the office. But in the “new normal” setup, our home is our office. This means we can be accessible round the clock, which can lead to more work demand. It’s no longer an obstacle. Technically, we are like 24/7 convenience stores that our employers can just go to anytime they want. It can have an effect on our daily schedule and can disrupt our performance level.

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Mental health. We are all social beings by nature. We love to share stories and bond with other people. But with the work-from-home setup, it might prove difficult for us to satisfy our social needs. Giving proper attention and focus to a person can be a challenge. Digital barriers like slow internet speed and unstable connections make collaboration a grueling task rather than a learning experience. Such experiences can pose a risk and lead to social isolation. A feeling of lack of company pushes us to be lonely. That’s when anxiety and depression start to creep in.

What we can do. Work from home is not for everyone, but there are some things we can do to make it better for us. One way is to manage our time and set a schedule that works best for us. Narrowing our focus to specific roles helps maintain our work life separate from our family life. Another way is to communicate openly to our managers and teammates about our availability. Setting proper expectations ahead of time will provide flexibility in our schedule and help us finish tasks efficiently. It is also important to take care of our mental health. We are not pressure cookers. We all need to take a break and let off some steam. Read a book, eat a snack, phone a friend, do anything that will help you cool off the heat.

Productivity is hard to sustain, whether at work or at home. There will always be obstacles that will distract us from being effective in what we do. And for some of us, being in the “new normal” makes it tougher. Undeniably, the work-from-home setup will remain a primary option for many employers given the lingering pandemic. So how do we maximize productivity? Be strong. Be resilient. Be tougher.

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Keanu Plantilla is a mental health advocate and promotes the “EZ Lang” movement.

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