Maintaining Your Mental Health When Working during the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Discuss any concerns about reporting to work with understanding coworkers
  • Set a predictable routine with boundaries on your work schedule
  • Find new ways to stay connected with your coworkers if working remotely

Regardless of whether you’re working in person or remotely, knowledge helps

Stay informed about what’s really happening by tuning into trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or your state health department. However, do your best to limit your news consumption to a few specific times during the day (e.g. about 15 minutes a day in the morning and 15 minutes a day in the evening) for key practical information. Avoid watching or reading news on social media where information can be exaggerated or incorrect.

When you have a job that requires you to be there in person

If you work at a business that is considered “essential”, you may still be required to report to work during this time. While you may be grateful for the continued paycheck, you may also be fearful that you will become ill and spread the virus to your family members or roommates. Individuals who are staying home and are not required to go into work may not fully understand what you’re going through. Share your concerns with your supervisors or your coworkers who are in the same situation. Also, when possible, participate in relaxing activities when you’re home from work, such as yoga, watching a movie or funny videos, or going on a walk outside.

Create and follow a new routine that includes boundaries

During this time, you may be working remotely for the first time or you’ve found yourself in a different working situation than before the pandemic. Whatever the case, it isn’t just “work as usual”—your daily living routine has most certainly been disrupted. Creating a new daily routine that you follow will help you cope with this new, unpredictable situation and make you feel more in control of everything. A routine can help you stick to healthy habits and prioritize needed self-care even during the workday, since you will be able to carve out blocks of time for activities such as breakfast, stretching, exercise, and relaxing.

When working from home, there is not a natural start and stop time for working hours. Instead, there can be a blurring of boundaries between your work and home lives. Setting a schedule that you maintain each day will encourage you to work reasonable hours and stop working or checking email when your workday ends.

Stay connected with your coworkers and colleagues when working remotely

Many people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, meaning their coworkers are their main source of social interaction each day. When working from home, it’s important to find new ways of staying connected with your colleagues to discuss both work and personal matters.

Your coworkers should serve as a social and professional support system. For example, coworkers can be a helpful outlet to talk through coronavirus-related fears such as job security, worries about your health and well-being, or the safety of your loved ones. You and your coworkers may also find it helpful to share strategies for adjusting to a new way of working and living. Some teams and organizations have organized daily or weekly video check-ins or virtual “happy hours” to do this. You may consider suggesting one of these ideas to your manager or team. It would also be a nice idea to call up a coworker that you normally see to ask how they’re doing. Reaching out to others is mutually beneficial.

Be patient with yourself and your coworkers

This is an overwhelming situation that has forced us to make significant changes in the way we live and work. Take comfort in the fact that everyone around you (your co-workers, your supervisors, and your friends and family) is going through this together. You may need to adjust your schedule for childcare or caregiving responsibilities or other priorities that come up during this time. If you have kids or pets (fondly known as coworkers) at home, you may be interrupted on work-related phone or videoconference calls. That’s okay! Share these challenges with colleagues and supervisors so they are aware. Or consider introducing your children or pets to your colleagues to make light of the situation.

To minimize distractions, it can be helpful to work during specific periods of time, such as early mornings or evenings. Again, sticking to this particular routine (whatever it may be) is important for staying mentally well. You may also find it harder to focus on your job when you are constantly receiving coronavirus-related emails or seeing distressing articles about the pandemic online. Try to set aside time to read updates about the pandemic, but also allocate specific times to limit distractions and disconnect from the news.