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Will Working From Home Affect Your Mental Health (or Your Staff’s)?

16th March 2020
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Coronavirus has thrown us all into uncertain and unknown times. For many people, working from home is just not something that has ever been on their radar and the daunting prospect of working in isolation can be overwhelming. If we add into this the possibility of having children at home, increased anxiety, escalating panic; and suddenly we need to have an urgent conversation about how this will affect mental health and mindset.

The World Health Organisation has released some advice and tips on how they think best to deal with this which include:

  • Minimise watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.
  • Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.

  • Protect yourself and be supportive to others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper.
  • Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19. For example, stories of people who have recovered or who have supported a loved one and are willing to share their experience.
  • Honor caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community. Acknowledge the role they play to save lives and keep your loved ones safe.

All great advice. But what about the added feeling of isolation and oftentimes anxiety from now working from home? The guilt if you take 2 mins to put the washing on? Added feelings of pressure from management who might themselves be struggling with the sudden lack of ‘control’ from remote working?

We need to look at specific advice we can give to workers being asked (or told) to stay at home.

Here are my Top 10 Tips to protect your mental health if you are working from home:

  1. Make you working day more productive by using your normal commute time as your regular start work time – so you’re already 30-60 minutes ahead on the day. You’ll start your day on a massively positive note and be feeling “on it”.
  2. Set specific work hours and resist the temptation to stay in bed. Get up, get dressed, and find a space at home for a makeshift office. This will help you to combat anxiety/guilt associated with not doing your job ‘properly’ and/or imposter syndrome.
  3. Ask your family to respect your work time, including children. As a mum of 3 myself, I know this can be difficult when children are younger, but conversations about timings can be helpful. For example, if you can watch XYZ and leave me to work during that time, I’m just in the kitchen on the table where you can see me, we can then do ABC together. Although far from ideal, it does mean you can get concentrated work time.
  4. Communication online with other members of your team – Webex, Skype, etc. Make sure you grab interaction time where you can – preferably face time too. Don’t isolate yourself from other members of staff even if you are all now in separate locations.
  5. Make sure you still finish at a regular time…don’t let you working day meander on throughout the evening. You still need to maintain a work/life balance even if they are seeming to be getting very merged.
  6. Ensure you still have a lunch break and move throughout the day. Every hour stand and move around for a few minutes to get your circulation going and to stretch.
  7. Journal at the end of the day to keep an eye on your emotions and mind set. Just in a blank notebook or journal, write down how you think your day has gone, what you have achieved, accomplishments for the day, etc. In doing so you can see how you’re doing in your own headspace and if re-reading a few days later speaks of negativity than you need to contact your upline to let them know.
  8. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. Request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a day or two when you realise you need something new. It’s extremely important to ask for what you need to get your job done comfortably, including the right monitor, chair, printer, software, etc. Companies should have a budget for home office equipment.
  9. Make sure you work near to a window or sunlight. and try to create a and lovely work environment – think comfy chair, nice stationary and computer at the correct height.
  10. And above all, when in doubt, be positive. We all quite like succinct and clear messages sometimes,  but the less face time you have with people, the less they know how to interpret your tone. When you work remotely  you must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you’re being overly positive. Otherwise, you risk sounding harsh and negative. It’s unfortunate, but true. So embrace the exclamation point! Find your favorite emoji :D. You’re going to need them.

Above all, know who you can talk to if you are struggling with your mental health in the new circumstances. If your company is offering mental health workshops, webinars, etc. find out how you sign up for them. Is there a hotline to discuss your concerns? Who is your go-to-person with any issues?


What Can We Do Help You and Your Employees?

If you would like any information about our Working For Home Mental Health Webinar programmes and our On-Call Employee Mental Health Support services, please email Kate directly on [email protected]. Thank you