Working from home, especially during extended periods can be difficult to adjust to. For many of us, it means learning how to manage our different areas of work under new circumstances.
While we all experience and learn to adapt to new situations and environments differently, there are some challenges that we are all facing.
We’ve put together some top tips on how to get the most out of working from home while looking after yourself and your mental health.
Create your morning routine
Create a morning routine that brings you up until the moment you begin work for the day. It may sound trivial, but this helps you mentally prepare for the day ahead and get into the "I'm going to work" mindset.
You probably have a routine when you get to work, so creating a routine at home is also a good idea.
It could be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog, or doing some mindfulness sessions. It could be getting dressed (although it may be tempting to stay in your pyjamas, it may not be the best look for those video conference calls!).
Whatever it is, setting yourself up for the day can improve your state of mind and psychologically prepare you to start work.
Why not try mindfulness or meditation to get your morning started: Headspace - Weathering the Storm.
It is easy to lose track of time when working from home, so set a schedule, and stick to it...where you can.
Having clear guidelines for when to start work and when to call it a day helps maintain your life-work balance. Aim to start and finish at your normal working times.
We know that those in self-isolation, who have childcare or other caring responsibilities, may need to be more flexible in the times they might work. For example, you may need to switch to some evening work so you can spend time with children during the day. Speak to your line manager about agreeing a new temporary work schedule.
Create your own workspace
Although it's tempting to head to your sofa with a laptop, you're may find setting up a work area helps you stay focused. If you can, try to set aside a specific area or space where you can work. If you don't have a desk, use a table or worktop.
Besides making you feel like you're at an "office," this helps you maintain good posture, avoid distractions, and mentally leave your work behind at the end of the day. The NHS advice is that you should adjust your chair so you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor.
Set ground rules with the people you share your space with
There might be other people in your home during these exceptional times. They may be working from home too or self-isolating. You may all need to share a limited amount of space so it’s important to set some ground rules. For example, when you need access to a certain area of your home; or designated times for ‘quiet time’.
Working with limited childcare options
With schools and nurseries closed, you may find yourself needing to come up with new routines not only for your working life, but within your personal life for your children or siblings. Talk to your employer or manager about potential flexible working opportunites at your place of work. You may want to consider the following:
- Are the children old enough so you can still continue to work?
- Can someone supervise the children some of the time?
- Can you alter your working times?
- Do I want to consider using some annual leave to spend time with children?
If children are at home, then try set some ground rules. Have clear rules about what they can and cannot do during that time, when they can come and speak to you and when you need left alone.
We also know that many schools have reminded parents not to set unrealistic expectations or goals. Its important parents take time to look after themselves too. If you are social care staff or co-parent with someone classed as a key worker, your children may still be able to go to school. Follow the Government’s most up to date advice.
Remember to take normal breaks, including your lunch break. Get up and move about, go for a short walk or make a coffee. Try setting a timer or alarm on your computer screen or mobile phone to remind you to take a break.
Connect with colleagues
Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are common problems in remote work life, especially in the current uncertain and worrying situation. Making the effort to speak to your colleagues regularly can make a difference.
Conference calls, Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams are all examples of how you can keep connected. Try to pick up the phone for a real conversation rather than relying on email or instant messaging all day. Video calls in particular can help you still feel connected to your colleagues.
Get some fresh air when you can
For those who need to self-isolate, opening the window may help you get as much fresh air as possible. Try to choose a spot with lot of natural light to work if you can.
Follow Government advice and do some exercise outside, even a short walk can benefit you both mentally and physically. Make sure to keep a distance from others when outside and be sure to wash your hands as soon as you return home.
Drink plenty of water
People get dehydrated when they sit, and if you’re heating is still on in your home, then you’ll need the extra water to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy.
To ensure that you are consuming a sufficient amount of water, keep bottles of water handy to make sure you drink your recommended 1.5-2 litres per day. You can also download apps on smartphone or tablet to remind you to drink regularly.
Stand up and stretch
Sitting all day isn’t healthy even if you’re at the office, but working from home means you skip your commute and have fewer reasons to get up from your chair throughout the day.
If it’s possible in the area you have set up for home working, try standing up to do your work for a change of pace. Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories than sitting and it’s good for your back and posture.
If you can’t stand and work, stretching is vital for maintaining good posture, especially when working at a desk for several hours a day. Try standing up every 30 minutes or so to stretch your chest and extend your spine to reverse the hunched position of sitting.
Standing and stretching can also help to reduce back and neck pain. Here are some suggestions to help you move and be mindful: a
Listen to music
If you find working from home to be a little too quiet, you miss the buzz of the office and find it difficult to focus, listen to music, turn on the radio, or put the TV on quietly in the background.
End your day with a routine
Just like you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. You might have a simple routine such as shutting down your computer and turning on a favourite podcast, or writing the next day’s to-do list.
Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours. Put your work away or shut your laptop so you know you are back in your personal home time and place.
Reflect on your mental health
Ensure you take time to reflect on and try to be mindful of your mental health. Look out for changes in your feelings, practice self-care and be aware of any triggers or symptoms surrounding your mental health.
Make sure you keep in touch with support networks, even a text, phone call or video chat can make a difference.
For more ways to protect your mental health during these challenging times, check out our online information hub: www.samh.org.uk/coronavirus.