Working from home can feel difficult. It can feel strange and it can feel isolating.
Work life and home life feel fused. Your bedroom becomes the boardroom and your kitchen becomes your commute.
How can we navigate these changes and challenges while maintaining positive mental health? How do we minimise work stress and maximise opportunities to look after our wellbeing?
Here are 5 ways tips for managing your mental health when working from home:
1.) Try to work in a separate space if possible
Not everyone has the luxury of a home office, or a garden room. We must appreciate that people are working in some less than ideal environments. So if you do not have a separate room, that is okay. There are other ways of compartmentalising your workspace: using a separate desk, or even a different chair than you would usually sit on. If you work from the sofa all day, it can be very difficult to then relax in that same space when you are not working. Our brains make strong associations with our environment.
2.) Take regular breaks
Do you think it feels more difficult to take breaks when working from home?
I have heard from many people (across a range of different industries) that they feel more guilty about taking a break when working from home. They have told me they feel like they are being monitored more through technology. I have heard people say that they feel they need to prove that they are working, because nobody can physically see them do their work. Does this ring true?
What we know for certain is that we NEED breaks. Research firmly states that taking breaks increases productivity and improves mental health. This article published by Forbes is an interesting read. Here you can read about micro-breaks which have also been shown to be hugely beneficial.
3.) Connect with colleagues
Are you missing your colleagues? Those little 'water cooler chats'? Stopping by the printer, making a cuppa, saying hi in passing?
We crave connection and company so this is a huge loss to us. Have you noticed while out walking that people tend to say hello more at the moment? People want to chat, smile and make eye contact, That is what we are meant to do.
While remote communication may not feel the same and we need to be honest - it isn't the same. But it is still really really important.
So in whatever ways you can, chat to colleagues. Set up virtual coffee mornings (the no work chat rule is best applied here). Use all the mediums available to us. It doesn't have to be all video calls. That really is tiring.
Many companies have had success with virtual coffee mornings being available every day. So you can check in but without pressure. Work meetings online do not lend themselves to a chat along the corridor on the way to the meeting room. There are so many micro moments of connection missed when working from home.
But with some creativity, a safe and fun space can be found with colleagues.
4.) Get outside
Yes, we say this all the time now - but are you getting out each day?
When working in a physical workplace, there is a minimum amount of exercise and exposure to sunlight you will get just travelling there. And as workplaces are often larger than homes, you would move more each day. More steps just with all the incidental trips to the toilet and the printer.
Not only can working from home translate to us being more sedentary, but it can also mean we find less reasons to leave the house.
There is now so much evidence to support the amazing benefits of nature on improving our mental health - see this article in Mind for some further information.
5.) Set strict boundaries around your working time
The downside of technology - we are permanently reachable.
Or that is the perception. However, we are only reachable if we let ourselves be. We have the right to not answer every call or email - especially out with working hours. There are of course exceptions to this - in some roles people will be expected to respond to crisis situations and that is part of their job. That is not what I am talking about here.
Similar to setting boundaries around your 'work space', what does it feel like to take charge of your separation from technology?
A few things to consider:
- Having a separate work and personal phone
- Leaving the phone/computer at your designated workspace when you are 'off'
- Writing a clear automated email about when people can expect replies from you
- Remember that you are entitled to all of your time outside of work
- Working 'all hours' is often cultural but rarely beneficial
- Remember that rest is in fact productive
Mental health at work is so important. Creating boundaries and separation can really help with this. I hope you find these tips useful.
Take care and thanks for reading,