Employer Brand

Working from home and your mental health – 12 tips

April 2020 8 min read Written by Papirfly

While it has garnered much more attention in recent months, working from home isn’t a new concept. In fact, it was predicted that by 2020, 50% of the UK workforce would be working remotely, and as of April 2020 the reported figure was 49.2% due to recent social distancing measures.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, millions of workers in the UK and worldwide now find themselves compelled to work from home, a situation that some predict might end up being more permanent than we realise.

Working from home 11 tips to support your mental health

Of course, home working does typically carry several advantages, such as:

  • Reduced office costs
  • Wider talent pools
  • Environmental benefits
  • Increased staff morale (generally)

However, there is some dispute over the final point listed above. Looking after your mental health when working from home is a point of consideration in this altered landscape, especially considering that now many are forced to work from home, rather than it being their preference.

This lifestyle is not for everyone, and these new ways of working have the potential to negatively impact mental health, even for those who have got on board with these practices. Combined with the added stress and disillusionment surrounding COVID-19 in general, it is imperative that employees and employers are paying closer attention to the relationship between working from home and mental health.

That is what we intend to address in this article. If you find yourself based from home for the foreseeable future, or you’re an employer looking out for the best interests of your team, here are our top working from home tips that support mental wellbeing.

How to look after your mental health when working from home

1. Find a routine that works for you

Our first working from home tip is to figure out a routine that helps you stay productive and focused. This could start by creating a checklist of the jobs you have scheduled for each day and ticking these off as you move along.

This focuses your mind against the myriad of distractions that might appear at home, and everything you check off is another accomplishment to boost your mood.

Furthermore, you might find that your preferred routine when working remotely isn’t the same as when you’re in your typical work environment. You might take a few shorter breaks during the day rather than one extended lunch break, for instance.

As long as your employer is clear about what is expected of you during the day and you deliver on these goals, take the opportunity to structure your day in a way that makes you more effective, productive and content.

2. Keep in touch with colleagues

Something it’s easy to miss about office life is seeing and chatting with your colleagues day-to-day. Especially for companies with a tight-knit culture, this can be a difficult transition. In fact, 19% of workers cite loneliness as one of the biggest issues when discussing working from home and mental health.

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To combat this, incorporate video conferencing tools into your organisation to hold regular team meetings. WhatsApp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, FaceTime – whichever system you implement, the benefit of bringing the team together for a chat can help stave off feelings of isolation and improve your social interaction.

Plus, don’t just use this for work-related briefings and client meetings – dedicate some time for informal chats as well, allowing people to keep up with their friends in the office. These friendly interactions are often crucial in looking after our mental health during day-to-day work, and this distance may in time actually help bring teams closer together.

3. Try and distinguish between work and home

It’s a common misconception that someone’s work-life balance will be instantly enhanced by working from home. In reality, finding it difficult to segment your workspace from your living space can, over time, do more harm than good to your mental wellbeing. Having children or other family members around the house might also cause unnecessary distractions and stress.

Where possible, try to create a designated space in your home to be your work area for the time being. It could be a home office, your dining table, a couch in the living room – wherever you feel you’ll be most productive. Try to pick somewhere where distractions will keep to a minimum.

Then, when you’re done for the day, vacate that area and keep it separate. Prepare a nice meal. Spend time with your family. Go for a socially-distant walk. This will help keep your professional and personal lives from intertwining during this timeframe and protect your mental health in these new ways of working.

4. Ask for help becoming IT confident

When considering how to look after your mental health while working from home, a fair amount of this may be based on how comfortable you are with technology.

Not all of us are technical wizards – it’s part of the reason why we worked so hard to make BAM by Papirfly™ accessible to non-specialists. But now with so much predicated on technology to keep workplaces functioning remotely, this can add undue stress onto people that aren’t as accustomed or confident using technology.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your IT department or people you know personally or professionally that are more IT literate for advice and support. This assistance will help you feel more composed on your home computer and allow you to find a rhythm with your digital working style. 

If you need any help making the most of your Papirfly BAM portal, including the pivotal role it can play in supporting your employer branding both in this environment and beyond, be sure to get in touch with our team.

5. Don’t forget to take breaks

Nobody sits at their screens for 8 hours a day straight when they’re in the office, so you shouldn’t feel compelled to when working from home. When you’ve dedicated a good chunk of time to a piece of work, take a couple of minutes to get up, walk around, make yourself a cup of tea, and generally switch off from work for a little while.

By taking some time here and there to refresh and refocus, you can be more productive when you return to your temporary workspace and feel more composed throughout the day. Perhaps see if the Pomorodo Technique could make a difference in looking after your mental health…

6. Stick to your working hours

Something that can prove detrimental to people’s mental health when working from home is known as the “always-on” culture. This can lead to people persistently working throughout the day or finding it difficult to switch off and return to their home mindset, which in turn leads to more stress and anxiety than a typical workday.

If you find yourself struggling with this, we recommend sticking to your normal working hours where possible. Do you have to be at the office by 9am? Well don’t sit at your home desk until that time then. Do you clock off at 5pm? Then switch off your laptop at that time. This will help you find a balance of regularity for when you return to a more typical work schedule.

7. Give yourself time to exercise

It’s well-established that exercise not only supports our physical wellbeing, but our mental wellbeing as well. So, between your working hours at home, try to designate some time for exercise to get active, get the endorphins flowing, and generally get your mind away from your work for the day.

It is possible you may not feel comfortable going outside to exercise, which is totally understandable. In which case, we recommend finding online videos or courses that support home exercises to stay fit during the COVID-19. You’ve already made your home an office – why not make it a gym as well?

8. Practice meditation

Another practical working from home tip to support mental health is meditation. And the great thing about this is you can easily fit this into your daily working routine.

When you think meditation, your mind immediately points to someone on a mat in the lotus pose in the open air. Meditation can be much less convoluted than that. Simply sit at your desk, close your eyes, find a natural breathing rhythm, and try to focus your attention on each breath.

As you get more experienced, you’ll improve your ability to clear your mind and concentrate solely on your breathing. This, even if only applied a couple of minutes a day, can dramatically reduce stress and anxiety, and bring your focus back to the next task on your checklist.

9. Avoid getting glued to the news and social media

While it is hard to fully switch off from the events affecting the world right now – especially if they are the reason you’re working from home in the first place – failing to limit the time you spend on news websites and social media can not only be a big distraction, but a huge blockade to looking after your mental health.

Set specific times during the day to catch up on recent events, maybe at the start and end of the day, and to avoid falling victim to the negative effects of hearsay and rumour, stick to trustworthy sources for your information.

10. Ask your employer to invest in your development

A sad by-product of the COVID-19 crisis is that many employees will find themselves with little or no work to do, even if their work continues to stay open. With people confined to their homes for the vast majority of the day, many services are far less active than they previously were, and this lack of work can cause people to worry about job security, or simply lose motivation.

In order to stay motivated, protect your working health and give you a goal to aspire towards, try talking to your employer or supervisor about any courses or accreditations that they might be willing to invest in you completing while you have the time to spare. This will maintain your focus on something positive and make you a more valuable asset to your team when we reach the other side of these circumstances.

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11. Report any issues to your HR manager

If you do have difficulty finding the right balance between working from home and mental health management, it’s important you feel comfortable getting in touch with your HR manager. Especially during times like this, they will be who you can turn to for advice and support managing your time at home. 

Should the processes of contacting your HR manager or department have changed as a result of enforced workplace changes, make sure you clarify this with your employer, so you know where to go for support when it’s needed.

12. Create a Wellness Action Plan

Our final working from home tip is to consider asking your employer to put together a Wellness Action Plan in your office. In these challenging circumstances, now might be the ideal moment to formalise your company’s approach to protecting the wellbeing of staff and ensure everyone is supported.

Establishing this now could also pay dividends when working practices return to normal – demonstrating that you’re an organisation that prioritises the mental health of its employees will benefit your ability to recruit the top talent from those unfortunately affected by job losses caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Empower your team to work from home and protect their mental health

Hopefully you find our tips for working from home and looking after your mental health useful as we adapt to these new ways of working across the globe.

If you’re looking for further support on how to look after mental health, community projects like Leapers, who typically gear their work to the self-employed and freelancers, are offering effective guides for companies impacted by COVID-19 and have many of their employees working from home.

And if you’re settling into your new work life and are itching for some social interaction, we’re happy to jump on a call and help you learn how to get even more from BAM by Papirfly™.

by Papirfly

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