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How might we stay sane and productive when working from home?

How might we stay sane and productive when working from home?

Background: I moved to Leeds from Manchester a month before lockdown started, I felt really excited at the prospect of meeting new people and starting in a new environment. The first three months were challenging as I felt isolated being in a new city where I barely knew anyone, whilst also not being able to see my family and closest friends in Manchester.

I had to look after my mental and physical health day-by-day and made goals to keep myself motivated - mostly through meditation, connecting with friends and family, and quality leisure time like Netflix or reading, exercising, and eating healthily.

Despite that, I burnt out from the high expectations I put on myself, then I realised that I had to be ok with not being ok, and the rest just fell into place as time progressed...

Once I got into this state of flow, I found myself getting out of my head to be more rooted in the present moment. Lockdown eased off, and I started to venture out more. I had enough of working remotely so I went back to the office early and I’m enjoying the hybrid working.

I am sharing this experience because it’s important to cultivate a sense of connectedness – especially as our experiences have all been different and we continue to work remotely.

The change of our use in tech in the last year

While we can celebrate how quickly and successfully we adapted to working remotely and digitally, we also need to acknowledge the profound impact on our lives, at home and work, and our health – physical and mental.

 

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We readily accepted the benefits that the internet and collaborative technologies brought us, by keeping us connected to carry on working. Technology allowed us to keep in touch with our connections and loved ones, but research has progressed our understanding of how these changes have affected:

  • Our work performance and wellbeing, for example digital distraction and presenteeism
  • Our increased exposure to technologies, leading to digital fatigue.

As the hybrid working model emerges, it's an opportunity to reflect on ways to achieve a healthier balance – using technology to keep us connected and productive, while reducing and mitigating the risks to ourselves.

So how can we tackle this?

Cyberpsychology provides us with tools to make sense of our technology

So, what is cyberpsychology?

It is the study of the interaction between human beings, society and technology.

It answers the fundamental questions of how the rise in technology may affect humanity, now and in the future. It helps us to understand how a progressively more technologically exposed society affects our mental health.

Assessing the impact of technology can be challenging from a psychological research perspective due to the diversity of devices, content, audiences, purposes and context. Offering a meaningful comparison between these human-computer interactions which are happening simultaneously can be difficult. But cyberpsychology is a multi-disciplinary field covering a wide range of industries as its scope encompasses anywhere with an online presence.

Universities have broken down cyberpsychology into these subtopics:

  • Mental health online
  • The self in cyberspace
  • Cyberbullying
  • Cybercrime
  • Online dating/relationships
  • Online communications/marketing
  • eLearning
  • Online psychological applications/healthcare
  • Psychology of artificial intelligence/virtual reality
  • Online addiction
  • Cybersecurity
  • Online and video gaming
  • Computer forensics
  • Children’s/teen's use of digital technologies
  • User Experience
  • Human Computer Interaction.

Cyberpsychology allows us to draw from scientific literature to measure the impact of technology on human behaviour, mental health, and wellbeing.

As the overlap between man and machine expands, the relevance of human-computer interaction (HCI) research will only increase. And, with the rising number of internet and computer users around the world, it is evident that technology's effects on the human psyche will continue to significantly shape both our interactions with each other and our perceptions of the world that is literally "at our fingertips”.

So, what can we do to strike a healthy lifestyle?

When working from home, its important to recognise that it is OK to...
  • Consider coming to the office if it is safe and convenient to do so
  • Book time off, so you don’t feel overwhelmed
  • Declutter your work desk
  • Eliminate the distractions where possible
  • Focus on one thing at a time
  • Manage expectations with your clients
  • Allow for quiet time away from your work laptop and phone during lunchbreaks
  • Turn off all notifications after work is finished
  • Set out-of-office emails automatically after work and during holidays
  • Ask for help and collaborate
  • Keep open channels of communication so you don’t feel isolated
  • Block out time in your calendar for uninterrupted work time
  • Plan breaks between meetings
  • Re-think how you want to manage your calendar and your availability.
Outside work, it’s important to recognise that it is OK to…
  • Pause and ask why, before you habitually use your mobile phone, laptop, or any other device
  • Plan some screen-free activities in the week and give yourself a break
  • Turn down screen-brightness or use dark mode before bedtime to increase readiness for sleep
  • Pause notifications or turn them off completely
  • Delete any unnecessary apps you don’t use on your phone
  • Set up screen limits on your devices
  • Spend time outside in nature.

This is all great advice, but in practice, it can be difficult, so look after yourself, ask others to support you in this change, and offer support to others.

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