How to Cope with Remote Work as a Designer

Many articles focus on the hip side of working remotely, but what are the downsides and how can you overcome them?

Gaby Araujo

Working remotely sounds like a dream, right? You earn a living while at home, or even abroad! You can live anywhere and essentially earn money for doing what you like!

Sounds lovely, right?

Well, it is lovely but there are also downsides. Research shows that mental health issues are prevalent for those working remotely because of non-existent work-life balance, low pay, mental burnout, and, in the worst-case scenario, depression.

Many articles focus on the hip side of working remotely, but very few talk about its actual implications. Loneliness is the most common result of living and working remotely. Even if you think you're surrounded by your loved ones at home, or believe that you socialize enough when you're abroad, the truth is working remotely can mess up with your sense of belonging.

If you're a remote worker and have started to feel down and with more stress than usual, don't worry, there's also good news: it's possible to cope with the shortcomings of being a remote worker and have a healthy lifestyle.

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Advantages of Working Remotely

Nothing comes without its fair share of flaws, no matter the number of virtues it might have. However, that doesn't mean that working remotely is entirely flawed—it's not the paradise many nomad workers make you think, but it has its fair share of benefits that you should also consider.

Take in mind the following, for example:

- Working remotely improves productivity. Because you'll spend less time commuting on going to an office and you don't get distracted by your coworker's 'water cooler' conversations. You can definitely get more things done.

- Fewer distractions and more work satisfaction. Thanks to its flexibility, you can focus more on your tasks and get them done on time. Also, since you'll have a greater focus on your tasks, you'll have greater control over your workday and see how faster you end up working.

- Improved work-life balance and happiness. If you follow our tips above, you'll be amazed at how helpful a remote work can be for your life, as you'll spend more time with friends and family and have more time to enjoy your hobbies, exercise and rest. You'll also have fewer challenging coworkers to deal with!

Top Disadvantages of Working Remotely

1. Social Isolation

A downside to working from home is the lack of human interaction.

Human beings need to mingle or even vent their frustrations with others, and one of the best places to do this is at your workplace. The friendship among your colleagues is essential for social life and something hard to achieve online.

Disconnection from society increases your sense of isolation and loneliness, which increases the chances of suffering depression and anxiety. Likewise, research demonstrates that being socially disconnected can ultimately influence physical health outcomes, such as random and unexplained headaches and back pains.

2. Serendipity Is Lost

Without a workplace, you don't have where to share your life joys, your anxieties, or even a place to discover new things every day. You miss out on opportunities for regular social interaction and find yourself stuck in monotony. Sometimes, anxiety occurs because there's no place to go to every morning—no purpose on even waking up!

3. Blurred Distinction Between Work and Home

The more you get used to seeing your home as your workplace, the more difficult it will be to "turn off" your working schedule.

Working from home requires several skills, such as time management. Your work will soon intrude on your private life, and actual free time will diminish until it practically disappears. Your family time will be completely cut off, overworking hours will become common, and your sleeping hours will reduce drastically.

In the same vein, this might lead you to experience an "imposter syndrome." You'll, somehow, think that everything you've done isn't enough.

This guilt might lead to anxiety and pressure you to be online far more often so that you can appear busy and prove that you're spending time at work, doing stuff. This guilt, coupled with the anxiety that comes from the need to prove yourself, may make you question your actual worth.

It's essential to keep a close eye on these situations, as you might soon experience these symptoms that will indicate your mental health is going downhill.

However, fear not: hope is not lost, and it's possible to combat mental distress while working from home.

4 Mental Health Tips for Remote Workers

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1. Create Boundaries: Set Up Your Own Office or Workplace

First things first: you must establish a distinct boundary between work and home, and the best way to do so is by setting up a specific office or workplace you can enter and leave when you're done.

Research has proven that sleeping hours are affected by working at home, but it's possible to combat this by only making it clear where your office is. It must be a well-lit room that can hold all your professional tools (avoid leaving them around your house), such as a wide desk, an ergonomic chair, and some music to soothe your mind.

Warning: avoid working in your bedroom, as it will make you associate its space to being alert, awake, and switched on.

2. Create a Routine and Stick to It

Set up a schedule, establish a flexible working routine, and stick to it. Not sticking to it will eventually lead you to procrastinate and over-promising things.

Start by waking up at a regular time and work only the hours you promised yourself you'd work; never overdo it or work less than established. Similarly, clearly define the time your workday ends. It can be easy to go and go and go when you're not surrounded by people reminding you that the day is over.

In addition to this, put some time in your calendar to have lunch. Careful: never eat from your desk/office, or wherever you're working. Usually, colleagues and coworkers eat together or at least remind themselves when it's time to eat and put their respective jobs aside. When you're by yourself, it's easy to go through the day without eating, or at least eating at irregular times, further blurring the fine line that keeps work from free time. Write down in your calendar a time to get lunch and block that time from work.

3. Exercise, Meditate or Go Outside

Make space in your routine for special activities, particularly exercising, meditating, or just going outside.

Exercise 20 to 30 minutes daily to reduce stress and keep away some pesky distractions plaguing your brain. You can do whatever you want—go for a walk, ride a bike, yoga, dance! If exercising is not your thing, you can meditate.

In the same vein, it's important that you go out every now and then and reconnect with the world outside. Granted, these days, it's harder to do so because of COVID-19, but by only going out to your yard and breathing some fresh air is equally helpful. The point is either reconnect or try a digital detox—your body needs to spend some time away from screens!

4. Reconnect with Your Loved Ones

Although you'd be working at home, it's easy to forget that you're living with other people. As a matter of fact, as a remote worker, you might neglect the social aspect precisely because you might live in semi-complete isolation.

Go out and meet some friends, spend some quality time with family, or keep in touch with your boss and colleagues through Zoom, if you're trapped in lockdown. Share your fears, anxieties, joys… Vent and surround yourself by caring people in a supportive atmosphere. It helps reduce stress as well as depression.

Likewise, have some time to speak to yourself: start journaling and make sense of what's making you anxious and what isn't. Sometimes the person we neglect the most is ourselves, so spend some time not only with your loved ones but with yourself as well. Add some time for self-reflection and even banish the imposter syndrome, so long you convince yourself that what you're doing is truly worth the name "job." You must remember that even creative works are as worthy as any other office job out there.

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Start Promoting Wellness in Your Workplace

If you're working with your team online, you can encourage health and wellness by having a weekly exercise program, such as a yoga session before starting their workday or an aerobics class after work. This encourages a healthy lifestyle among your team and allows them to get to know their workmates better.

Remember: it's not so much about where you work, but rather how you work. If you follow these tips, you'll be able to protect your mental health and keep it in shape while you work at home.

If you still feel anxious, it's also a good idea that you reach out to someone you trust, be it a friend, a family member, or even a professional. What's important is that you remember that you're not alone and that it's ok not to be ok. You just have to reach out for help and take the steps for a fresh beginning.

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