Now that we find ourselves - once again - in a national lockdown, it’s safe to say that many of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future.
Relegated to the kitchen table, flat-pack desk or corner of the sofa, this might be a re-adjustment or perhaps you never left your make-shift office. Either way, the isolation and new ways of working that come with home-working, as well as the existential and practical challenges of the pandemic, will be affecting our mental health and general wellbeing.
It has never been more important to protect our mental health and that of others, to take responsibility where we can for our own wellbeing and be kind to ourselves and others in the midst of so much change. And we can do this, in part, by adjusting our environment, habits and behaviours.
We caught up with workplace wellbeing consultancy, Luminate, after one of their regular workshops with our residents to share some working from home tips to help us create a good foundation for home-working whilst looking after our mental health.
1. SET BOUNDARIES
Boundaries are the basis of good mental health. They help us set and stick to positive routines and let others know what to expect from us, mitigating some of the pressures of work and home life.
In the context of working from home this means:
Creating a dedicated workspace that does not encroach significantly on where we spend our leisure time.
Being clear with co-habitants (be that friends, family or partners) about our working hours and what we require from them during this time (usually a bit of quiet and the occasional cup of tea.)
Being strict when it comes to switching off and packing up at the end of the working day.
2. IT’S IN THE ERGONOMICS
Having a good set-up whilst wfh not only supports your lower back but your mental health too. Aches and pains caused by poor posture at work can escalate without ergonomic intervention and make us feel distracted and restless. Here are a few basic tips from to help set up your home-office ergonomically:
Make sure you screen is at eye-level to avoid neck strain. You can do this by placing your laptop on a stack of books or by investing in a laptop stand.
Ensure your lower back is supported when working at a desk/table. You can use cushions or invest in an ergonomic chair
Use a separate keyboard and mouse so your arms are supported by your desk/table rather than in your lap
Introduce a green plant or candle to your working-space to help reduce stress and create a pleasant environment, comfortable environment for yourself
3. TAKE A BREAK
Many may assume that because we are now spending so much time in our personal space, we are less in need of breaks. But working from home comes with its own set of stressors from which taking a break is vital.
Pressing pause and stepping away from our desks (if only for 10 minutes) can help us manage our energy and relieve mental fatigue, ultimately helping our productivity at work. If we use these breaks to create mindful moments, we will feel more connected to ourselves, it will help us find perspective and balance.
Plan your week in advance, plotting in time for regular breaks as well as leaving some empty spaces in your diary for unexpected tasks.
4. STAY CONNECTED
Working from home can impact the feeling of community we gain at work, so it’s important to take steps to foster this digitally and create positive work culture online.
We suggest using video-call rather than emailing, where appropriate. This will make you and your colleagues feel more connected, as well as prevent your inbox from filling up. Through video we can read facial expressions, we can see our teammates smile and this often fires up our mirror neurons which help us understand and feel closer to others.
At whatever level you are in your team it’s important to check in with colleagues every now and again to see how they’re doing. You could even go one step further and organize an online work social, perhaps getting a couple of teammates involved to help you plan a quiz, a bake-off or creative challenge.
5. MAKE TIME TO MOVE
Exercise, along with eating well and getting enough sleep, is fundamental to our wellbeing. It’s well known that 30 minutes of exercise a day can relieve tension, both physical and mental, and boost endorphins - those lovely hormones responsible for feelings of euphoria and busting stress.
So, why not use the time you would usually spend commuting to take a brisk walk, try a YouTube workout or practice some yoga.
Even better, if you have the opportunity to do this outdoors the fresh air can help us feel better refreshed and energised, as well as staving off any feelings of cabin fever that can come with working from home.
6. ESTABLISH ONLINE ETIQUETTE
With the introduction of working from home, came the introduction of many new or previously little used digital platforms. As we navigate these new technologies it may be useful to create some etiquette around their use to help you and your team manage your collective ways of working. Some developing best practices are:
Agree regular times with your team during which you will be unavailable over email, phone or instant messenger in order to focus on work. This will allow you time to get stuck in and reach flow, whilst also managing your teams’ expectations.
Keep meetings to 45 minutes. Studies show that it’s difficult to sustain concentration beyond this point, plus this will allow your colleagues an additional 15 minutes within the hour to have a break and recharge.
Should you or a teammate send an email out of hours, schedule this to arrive in the recipient’s inbox during the working day so as not encroach on their non-working time.
WHO ARE LUMINATE?
Luminate is a workplace wellbeing consultancy, committed to rewriting the story of mental health in the workplace all across the UK. They work with businesses to improve the health and wellbeing of their people, helping individuals develop new tools and techniques to look after their health and prioritise self-care.