by DJ Cence, Account Coordinator
As young professionals in the COVID-19 era, we have had the unique challenge of navigating a new and unfamiliar world during a pandemic. The evolution to remote work environments for most of our world’s businesses has altered the way that employees early in their career develop as professionals. Without the proper resources and care, the mental, social and physical health of those employees are at risk. Together, employers and employees can take steps to ensure that they recognize the downsides remote work creates and take steps to overcome these issues to lead a more healthy and happy life.
According to a report conducted by the APA in 2021, the majority of employees working from home say they experienced negative mental health impacts, including isolation, loneliness and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day. The communications industry, like many others operate at demandingly high speeds that can leave employees feeling burnt out, especially young professionals still discovering how to operate in this new space. As a result, taking action to nurture your mental health becomes critical.
Personally, I find comfort in my hobbies, whether that be playing video games, watching sports, or simply relaxing with some friends. While not everyone may enjoy the same things as me, it is important to find those things that bring you joy outside of work life. Making a distinct separation from work is a good way to allow yourself to unwind and reset from the stress of the workday, especially in a remote setting where the lines between the workplace and the home are blurred.
Another great way to support one’s mental health is through communication with peers and mentors. By simply expressing the emotions and difficulties you are going through, you are able to reflect on what may be causing issues and work with those around you to create a plan going forward. Not only can communication support mental health, but it is a crucial aspect of nurturing strong social relationships.
Building strong social relationships both in and outside the workplace is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while working remotely. It can be difficult for employees to find opportunities to connect with their peers without the ability to interact face to face during the workday, especially on busy workdays. In a New York Times article titled, “Remote Work Is Failing Young Employees”, one young employee recalls that they “Stared at their Zoom boxes and willed us to be friends…But we never had the opportunity to interact.” Social relationships, particularly for those new to their positions, is one of the key ways that employees learn about and develop company culture. Through these relationships and growth, employees gain a sense of belonging and inclusion.
As a young professional, it is important to take the time to get to know those around you. One way that I have worked to grow relationships with peers is by putting meetings on calendars to chat with others, whether it be for 10 minutes or 30 minutes. These meetings allow you to get to know team members in a personal fashion that is not as easily attainable in a work meeting or company call. It is also important for more senior employees to recognize the importance of these interactions with new employees and help to guide them as they search for their place in the company. So, the next time there is a new employee who seems like their struggling to connect or seem isolated, reach out and offer some time, it may make all the difference.
Physical health is one of the most affected areas of employees’ lives since the start of the pandemic. Working from home has eliminated commutes, closed gyms, and for some sapped motivation. However, ensuring that one’s physical health is cared for is not always as difficult as it may seem. One strategy to counter these effects is to “simulate” a commute. By waking up 30-45 minutes earlier, you can take a short walk outside and get some fresh air before work begins as though you were walking to the office. This is a great way to prepare for the day and ready yourself for what lies ahead. A short walk in the middle of the day is also an excellent way to clear your head and plan the remainder of the day.
Another great way to care for one’s physical health is to actively try to make healthy food and drink choices. With limited opportunities to get up and move and increased access to snacks and unhealthy food options while at home, it is important to hold yourself accountable for the food decisions we make. By snacking on healthy options, drinking water, and sticking to three well balanced meals a day, employees can ensure that they are healthier and feel better throughout the day.
Being stuck at home can make it difficult to motivate yourself to take action, but in these times it is important to take steps to push yourself and those around you to care for mental, physical, and social health. The journey through the pandemic and working from home is not one that we take alone. We must use the resources around us and lift up our peers to build a healthier workplace and a happier workforce.
By taking these steps, we as young professionals can overcome challenges together and (finally) get back to that in-office work that we all look forward to.