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Now that, in many places, the coronavirus pandemic has instituted a “new normal,” one major resulting challenge for lots of employees has been the shift from working in an office to working from home. A permeable boundary between your house and your office life can make it more likely you’ll work beyond the hours you typically would at the office, putting people at greater risk of overwork.

Working extra hours is linked to increased symptoms of depression, according to a longitudinal study from 2019 from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. These symptoms can be alleviated by implementing consistent routines, though. Normalcy is beneficial for our mental well-being and can help relieve anxiety, according to research in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Those researchers also found that completing a ritual or routine is even more helpful in curtailing anxious thoughts than trying to calm yourself down.

Clearly, we must try our best to stick to routines as much as possible, and form clear boundaries between the office and home (even while working remotely) in order to maintain optimal mental well-being. However, 80 percent  of people say that they’re worried about changes to their existing routines and structures in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Thrive Global survey of 5,000 respondents around coronavirus pain points. 

If you feel similarly, don’t worry: Implementing specific work hours while working remotely is possible. These Microsteps — small, science-backed actions you can start taking immediately to build habits that significantly improve your life — will help: 

Each Monday morning, put your working hours on your calendar so your co-workers know when you’re available. Giving them visibility into your schedule will help avoid meetings that are scheduled when you have to feed your kids or have logged off for the night. 

At the end of each remote workday, take a moment to check in with yourself. It can be easy to miss signs of stress when you’re deeply focused on work all day, without pause.

At the end of every day, take a minute to think about what you accomplished today. If you’re not used to working on your own, it can be more challenging to notice your progress. Use this time to celebrate your small wins. 

Make a point of logging off from your remote work at the same time you would typically leave the office. It’s easy to let your workday bleed longer when you don’t have your usual commute home, but it’s important to build in time at night to rest and recharge so you can work sustainably.

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