The second wave of COVID-19 has taken hold. In the U.S., the number of daily cases is ticking up, while England and Western Europe reimpose stricter lockdown measures in response. Americans are also recovering from an emotionally draining election, the aftermath of which is still causing stress and contention. It's no wonder that many workers feel there's no end in sight to these tough times.

Most of us have adapted to working from home and accept that we'll continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But, especially after 10 months, that doesn't keep remote work from feeling long in the tooth. Given the current state of affairs, reports of rising employee distress are no surprise.

Usually, the holidays are a time of increased social activity with friends and family. This year, we're faced with restrictions and guidelines that are tempering our joy. Given the rampant sense of disappointment that's growing deeper by the day, we decided we could use a little workplace motivation to get us over the holiday hump.

So take a five-minute break from your to-do list, grab a cup of coffee and discover eight ways to reign victorious during these extended periods of isolation, during the holiday season and beyond. We even have some tips from former astronauts—true experts when it comes to being alone.

8 tips for WFH isolation during the holidays

1. Take advantage of employer resources

Many employers are doing their part to provide to help employees deal with WFH burnout and social isolation. Our suggestion: use them. Counseling services can help you learn how to cope with feelings of depression or anxiety that may feel seeping in.

2. Schedule a self-care day

While you may not want to take a staycation, using some personal time off gives you the opportunity to spend time on personal interests and hobbies, or to schedule quality time with family members in your household. A self-care day every once in a while can recharge your batteries and even make you more productive once you return to work. Some companies have gifted employees extra personal days to help them strike a better balance between work and personal life—a big help since working from home has blurred the line for many of us.

3. Stay connected with video

Former NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly relied heavily on videoconferencing to stay connected with friends and family on Earth. The rest of us can do the same, even if our feet haven't left the ground. Videoconferencing may not be as good as a physical hug, but the ability to see our loved ones' faces and have a real conversation can provide a genuine mental and emotional boost. Be sure to schedule regular video calls to keep the emotional connection strong.

4. Vent with co-workers

While we don't often encourage complaining about your job, sometimes it's therapeutic to commiserate about the struggles of long-term remote work. Managers can create an environment where employees openly discuss WFH challenges and how they're tackling them. A regular videoconference discussion dedicated to the topic can provide employees with a place to vent and exchange ideas on how to stay motivated. A shared workspace where employees can post motivational pictures, mantras and tips is another great way to let employees help each other and feel less alone.

5. Make a detailed (and we mean detailed) schedule

Former Astronaut Kjell Lindgren spent 141 days in space, so he knows a thing or two about working in a remote environment with little social contact. On the International Space Station, the daily schedule was broken down into five-minute increments. While this may seem like overkill, it kept the astronauts busy and made time go by quickly. At-home employees may not need a schedule that covers every minute of the day, but a detailed breakdown of meaningful activities, both work and personal, can help them stay focused and balanced. Example items to include are daily meetings, routine tasks or maintenance, working out, breaks for meals and quality time with family.

6. Debrief

If a weekly debrief worked for the astronauts, it can certainly work for us. Reflecting on the week can be especially helpful for people working from home, along with their spouse and children attending virtual school. Tensions can run high when everyone's in tight quarters, sharing bandwidth and trying to churn out quality work. An open forum where household members can discuss what's working (and what's not) provides a place for brainstorming better ways to co-exist peacefully and productively. Jocelyn Dunn, who spent eight months living inside a dome habitat with five other volunteers, said her crew used such weekly sessions as a safe place to raise frustrations. Also, these sessions become more important as employees begin entering what researchers call the "third-quarter phenomenon" in which people involved in a challenging mission begin to lose morale. COVID-19's second wave and impending socially distanced holidays are certainly creating a drop in motivation and hope among the workforce.

7. Make time for frivolous fun

As important as work is, "play" time is just as important. Working from home makes it harder to turn off the job, so we find ourselves working longer hours. The astronauts can teach us a thing or two about carving out time for fun. Faced with immense pressures and stress, they found time to binge watch their favorite TV shows—twice. Activities done for pure enjoyment and relaxation are crucial to staying positive and avoiding burnout.

8. Look for a "higher purpose"

Let's face it: it's pretty simple for astronauts to focus on a higher purpose when they're feeling lonely or frustrated. However, we all have an important role to play. As NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson so eloquently said, "COVID-19 gives us a higher purpose much like being in space does because we are saving lives by quarantining. It is important to understand that bigger purpose and to embrace that purpose to give you reason and rationale for continuing to put up with the situation."

Times may seem desperate, and you may feel as though you're destined to work in isolation forever. But this will pass. The team at Mitel is proud to provide communications technology that can help employees strike the right balance between work and personal life and keep communication open before, during and after the workday. We encourage everyone to use the resources they have available to stay motivated, and to reach out for support. Together, we'll get over this holiday hump!

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