Looking After Your Mental Health When You Are Home Working
Many of us have been instructed to work from home and, now after a few weeks of doing so, we may be missing our routines and our daily interaction with work colleagues. We may also be missing the family and friends we are used to seeing regularly and can no longer see.
On top of this many of us are struggling to work with a lack of suitable workspace at home and, though we adore them, those of us with children find out they can be an unwelcome and noisy distraction.
Given the difficulties many of us are experiencing, it’s no surprise that mental health issues are on the rise.
Looking after your mental health while working from home
There is support out there for people who are struggling with mental health whilst working from home but there are also a few things you can do for yourself which will have an immediate positive effect on the way you are feeling.
Avoid the news
There is little else on the news at the moment apart from a constant stream of COVID-19 related content. If you are feeling anxious, try to minimize watching, reading or listening to news; seek information only from trusted sources and limit it to several times a day.
Social media also provides a constant reminder and, quite often, misleading information. Be careful whose accounts you are getting information from; some are intentionally alarmist. If you struggle to disconnect, you could try an app like Offtime, which allows you to block certain apps for certain periods of time.
Keep a routine
Keeping a routine is so important for helping to control mental health issues. Treat working from home like any other working day; get up, shower and get dressed, have your breakfast and sit down to work. Remember to take regular breaks and try to switch off at time your working day normally ends so that you can enjoy some free time.
If you share your home with family or friends, make sure you all understand the boundaries regarding workspace and work time.
Keep your workspace clear and clutter-free (as much as possible).
Read our guide on working comfortably when at home for tips on making your home workstation comfortable in a few simple steps.
Maintaining close bonds with co-workers is hugely beneficial to our mental health so turn to your colleagues and your manager for support. Make the most of Skype/Zoom to keep in regular contact; it will remind you that you are part of a team and help lessen feelings of isolation.
Be aware other colleagues may be struggling; assisting others in their time of need can benefit you both so if you haven’t heard from someone for a while, check in with them.
Look after your physical health
The therapeutic powers of a walk and fresh air cannot be overstated. Even if only for 20 minutes, you will benefit mentally and physically from a walk outside. If you cannnot, or prefer not to leave your home, learn some simple daily exercises to perform indoors, this will help you remain fit as well as building a routine in to your day. YouTube has a huge variety of workout videos to choose from.
Try to ensure you get sufficient rest and respite, eat well and avoid coping strategies such as drugs or too much alcohol; both can make you feel much worse.
Your role, workload or method of work may need to change – consider adapting how you work to accommodate any limitations of homeworking. If you are finding you need to adapt or if you are having trouble with some of your work, speak to your manager and find out what can be done.
By looking after the wellbeing of your staff and protecting them as best as you can from chronic stress and mental health problems, you can help maintain a happy , healthy and productive workforce. As we don’t currently have any idea how long this period of uncertainty will last, consider it a long-term response rather than fire-fighting or short term measures.
Can you implement a buddy system to provide all your staff with a support system? Perhaps buddying up inexeperienced or younger staff with more experienced members. Build time in to the working day for support systems.
Create opportunites for your staff to feedback any concerns to you.
Be aware family members can impact on working capacity for some so be flexible with timelines and deadlines where you can. Change is a big stressor and people can struggle to adapt, be understanding and flexible.
If you have reduced staff numbers, perhaps due to illness or furlough, you may need to reassess whether staff still have manageable workloads and deadlines.
While managing the mental health of your staff, make sure you take care with yours too. You may be feeling similar stress as well as the additional pressure of looking out for others.
If you are considering working from home as a permanent measure, then you might want to consider redeploying some of the money you save on office space to provide ongoing support for your lone working workforce.
See HSE guidance Lone working: Protect those working alone.