#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: 5 ways to look after yourself (and others) while working from home
Like many people right now, you’re probably reading this while working from home. Your commute is a walk downstairs, your desk is the kitchen table and you’ve got a new colleague with four legs and a tail. It’s all a bit bizarre.
It’s a whole new way of life, in fact, and it’s challenging. Especially as our home, work and social lives are colliding like never before.
So how can we juggle all this and come out feeling… OK? This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and its theme – kindness – has rarely seemed more important. About 30% of the UK workforce has been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime, according to Business in the Community. And two in five employees say their work has affected their mental health.
Given everything we’ve got going on at home – and, of course, what’s happening in the world outside – it seems unlikely the current crisis will help these figures. But there are some simple things we can do to make our work days a little easier for ourselves and others. Here are five of them.
Finish on time
Drawing a line under the work day is something I found challenging when we started working remotely full-time.
I’m not alone. Last year, 92% of employees working from home reported responding to emails outside of office hours. It’s nobody’s fault, at least not in my case – usually it’s because we work across time zones. But feeling like you’re always ‘on call’ has been found to cause significant stress and anxiety.
So what’s the answer? For me, bringing my day to an end just like I would in an office has helped. I wish colleagues a good evening then shut down my computer. I know my leisure time has started, and it tells everyone else I’m finished for the day. Setting boundaries like this can really help with mental wellbeing while working from home, according to the NHS.
Find your dedicated workspace
It’s easier to finish for the day when you can walk out of the office and shut the door behind you. But now, for many, that office is scattered all over their house, and living and working in the same space can be another cause of anxiety.
So, if you can, choose one area to work in. Forbes suggests, perhaps unsurprisingly, that quiet areas are best. The NHS recommends finding somewhere away from distractions and, if possible, with a door that you can close. And a comfortable set-up is vital for long periods of work – your back will thank you.
Whatever you do, though, it might be best not to work from your bed, however tempting it might seem.
Get out and about
Research shows spending as little as two hours a week in nature significantly improves our health and wellbeing. That’s less than 20 minutes per day.
Being in nature can improve our mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger and help us feel more relaxed, according to Mind. It’s been found to help with anxiety and depression too. And a small screen break will help declutter your brain, refresh your eyes and break up the day.
So whether it’s a garden, local park or just a walk around the block, get out there – it all helps.
Manage your online meetings
During lockdown almost every area of our lives has been forced online, covering us with a giant digital tapestry that can sometimes feel overwhelming.
And with work meetings and social events happening in the same place – on apps like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, that have been instrumental to businesses and a lifeline to those in isolation during the crisis – many people are reporting signs of ‘video call fatigue’. Constantly having to perform for the camera and process non-verbal cues such as body language and eye contact are at the root of this, experts say.
As the Mental Health Foundation says, there’s no substitute for seeing another person’s face – but use your diary to clearly say to others when you’re available to speak.
Be kind to yourself (and others)
To say things are challenging for us all at the moment is an understatement. Everyone will be experiencing their own difficulties, but experts say that showing empathy, consideration and kindness to ourselves and others can help us all.
Kindness helps reduce stress, boosts happiness and improves our emotional wellbeing. And acts of kindness – like asking colleagues how they are, setting up a virtual coffee club or being there for a co-worker that has had a bad day – can make a big difference to people who are struggling, says the Mental Health Foundation.
And if you feel less productive than you usually do, that’s all right – no one is expected to have all the answers at a time like this. Just be realistic about what you can achieve, find what works for you and try to enjoy your free time. And look after yourselves!
About the author: Seb Budd is a Social Media Executive at Formative Content. He is responsible for planning, executing and driving the social media and blog content for the company, as well as our clients. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.
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