Picture this: no morning commute, working in your slippers and always being in control of the thermostat. For many, the idea of working from home is an appealing one. While it’s always wise to take care of your mental health, this practice becomes even more important for remote workers. Here, we share some useful advice to help you improve and maintain your wellbeing when working from home.
For more and more of us, home has also become ‘the office’. According to the ONS Labour Force Survey, some 1.54 million Britons worked from home in 2019. Of course, it makes a lot of sense; modern life is demanding and busy, home working offers employees flexibility to fit their professional life around their personal life. For employers, agile working is a staff benefit which attracts top talent and also saves money. Plus, there are environmental factors, in that less people commuting every day means less pollution.
It’s clear that working from home does have its benefits. That being said, it can be a minefield when it comes to your mental health. The associated isolation, potential for burnout and impact on your physical health can all have a knock-on effect when it comes to your mental wellbeing. Additionally, for those who have always worked in a busy office environment, making the move to solitary home working can feel like a huge upheaval. That’s why it’s essential to take steps that will help you to effectively manage your mental health if you are a remote worker.
We’ve put together some things to consider with regard to staying mentally strong and healthy while working from home. Take a look:
Make sure you’re all set up
This may seem like a purely practical action to take, but don’t be fooled. Feeling fully prepared and equipped to do your daily duties can help you to feel more confident and in control. For example, do you have everything you need to do your job well?
This can be physical equipment such as stationery or reference materials, or things like IT systems. If something is missing or not working as it should, don’t suffer in silence – speak to your employer. Once everything is set up and working as it should, you focus on getting on with work, with less reasons to feel stressed or anxious.
Create a happy workspace
One great thing about working from home is that you have the freedom to create a workspace that suits you and your needs. Try to establish a work area that is bright, welcoming and comfortable – after all, you’ll be spending a lot of time there!
You can brighten up your work area with things that make you feel happy; plants, flowers and personal effects all work well. Or, if you’re someone that struggles with silence, try listening to music or podcasts while you work.
If possible, use a separate, defined space to work in: for example, a home office or desk space in a quieter area of your house. This will help you to get into the right mindset every morning, giving you a clear boundary between your work and personal life.
Keep your work and personal lives separate
Having that boundary is important, as feeling like you’re constantly ‘on call’ can trigger stress and lead to burnout. Have a set time where you completely switch off from work and stick to it. Those emails can wait until tomorrow.
Conversely, feeling too relaxed and casual while working at home can hamper your concentration and productivity, which in turn can be a drain on your positivity and motivation. Avoid working in your pyjamas, mute those group chats and get focused.
Working from home can feel incredibly lonely at times, and loneliness can have a direct impact on mental health. In fact, a survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 42% of us have felt depressed as a result of feeling lonely. So, for home workers, it’s important to maintain connections and interactions with colleagues whenever possible.
Luckily, with all of the technology that is available, staying connected is easier than ever. Encourage video conferencing between your team, check in regularly with your manager and maybe call someone rather than sending an email every once in a while. Plus, you could talk to your manager or team about the possibility of more regular face-to-face virtual team meetings.
If you notice that feeling lonely or isolated is starting to affect your mental health, make sure you talk to your manager or employer, as they may be able to help.
Routine and variety
For those who may already experience mental health issues, a disruption to or lack of routine can leave you feeling out of control. This can exacerbate a number of conditions including stress, anxiety and even depression. According mental health charity Mind, establishing a routine in your everyday life can help to keep you grounded.
Working from home is no exception, try to get yourself into a good daily routine and stick to it. Try to start your day at the same time every day, where you can, and factor in regular breaks away from your desk.
Although it may seem somewhat contradictory, variety is important, too. Boredom and monotony can leave you feeling drained, demotivated and low. So, make sure you do spend enough time away from your desk, don’t skip breaks and make sure you get out of the house for your one hour of daily exercise, to enjoy some fresh air and blow off any cobwebs. This is something Mind champions, they say getting outdoors can: improve your mood; reduce feelings of stress and anger; and help you feel more relaxed.
Commit to healthy habits
How we feel physically has a direct impact on our mental health. Long term health conditions, obesity and inactivity can all contribute to poor mental health. When working at home, it’s tempting to let your healthy habits slip.
The fridge is just there, another snack won’t hurt! And it’s not your fault your lunchtime walking route just so happens to pass the local fish and chip shop.
Since good physical health is essential to good mental health, try to stick to healthy habits including healthy eating, drinking lots of water, practicing mindfulness and getting enough exercise. Don’t forget that exercise releases endorphins, often called ‘happy hormones’ thanks to their ability to boost your mood. Yoga and meditation are also great for managing stress and anxiety.
If your mental health is deteriorating or becomes too much for you to manage on your own, remember that help and support is available to you. Bottling up your feelings and problems will only make them worse, so it’s vital that you talk to someone.
It’s a difficult step to take, but you’ll be glad once you do it. Talk to a friend, family member or a colleague you can trust about how you’re feeling. Many employers have support in place for their staff; your manager or HR department will be able to tell you about the services that are available to you.
Your GP is a great place to start if you’re looking for guidance and support; they may be able to refer you to a counsellor or therapist who could help you manage your mental health long term. Don’t forget that there are also dedicated support services and charities available, too. If you’re struggling, or just need someone to talk to, here are some organisations you could turn to: