6 Ways to Support Your Mental Health When Working From Home

Last year, Lifepoint (like so many others) was all abruptly introduced to the concept of ‘working from home’. What started out as a novelty quickly threw up some unexpected challenges. More than a year later, Lifepoint has no plans to go back into the office, so we decided to put together some tips to support your mental health when working from home.

At the start of the pandemic, working from home was a big novelty. 

No more commute? Amazing! Working in pyjamas? A revelation! Feeling lonely and isolated without regular contact with your colleagues? Less good. 

In March 2020, the Lifepoint Healthcare team moved online. Since then, we’ve doubled our workforce and the newer members of the team have never experienced a time without remote working. 

Remote working has many benefits: 

  • You have access to a wider range of potential employees because you are not limited by location. 
  • You can save money on overhead costs like office rental. 
  • Employees get their time back as they don’t have to tackle commutes or office hours. 
  • Employees have a healthier work-life balance because they get to cater their working hours a little more, see more of their families and have more opportunities for personal tasks throughout the day

 

For us, it made perfect sense, but remote working has its downsides. When you work alone in your house, some find it more difficult to switch off than if they were leaving their work at the office.

Some feel lonely, isolated and disconnected from other people. Some lose their motivation, develop anxiety, face sleep problems and myriad other symptoms. 

That’s why it’s vital to emphasize how important good mental health is in yourself, your colleagues, and your employees. As a fully remote team, we have some tips to help navigate the “new normal” and promote good mental health.

Ways To Support Your Mental Health When Working From Home

1. Establish a routine

Without the enforced structure of workdays, offices and commutes, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and personal life. 

One way to solve this problem is to create your own personal routine. Decide how you want to work and the things you want to get done each day. It can be helpful to some people to work the same hours every day, but this doesn’t work for everyone. Figure out what works for you and run with it!

Taking breaks and time away from your desk is super important too, whether that’s a coffee with your partner, a walk around the block or a nap! 

Some people enjoy giving themselves a short “commute” each day, as a way to bookend their working day. This could be a 10-minute walk or drive, but it could also be dedicated some time to listening to your favourite music or reading a book before and after work. 

One of the most important things is to remember to stop working at the end of the workday. Close the laptop, move away from the place you’ve been working and stop checking your emails! It can be tempting to stick around and finish one more thing, especially if you have nothing planned for the evening, and can result in feeling guilty if you actually finish on time. 

Just remember that downtime is so important for taking care of your mental health and you have a responsibility to look after yourself, as well as your work!

2. Have a dedicated workspace

In an ideal world, we would all have spacious, comfortable and calm home offices where we could close the door at the end of the day. Naturally, this isn’t always the case. 

Instead, focus on creating a workspace that you can walk away from. If you can, avoid your bedroom, as you can create a strange mix of associations. It can make you feel alert and switched on when you should be sleeping, or sleepy and unproductive when you should be working!

If you can, find a quiet space away from distractions, including other people. If your circumstances make this difficult, pick a space that is easy to set up and pack away each evening, like the kitchen table. This means that you can effectively remove your office each evening and put it back up in the morning.

Let the people around you know your hours and consider investing in some form of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs if you’re distracted easily.

3. Set boundaries

Boundaries are one of the hardest aspects of working from home! It can be tricky to lay down the law with the people you live with, but you do need to let other members of the household know your boundaries.

With small children especially, it can cause distress to both the child and parent as the child thinks you should be spending all your time with them!

If you can, discuss your working day and your needs with the people around you. Would you prefer them to keep noise to a minimum? Do you need to be completely alone? Having the conversation before friction arises can help avoid future disagreements. 

Top Tip:

Of course, sometimes the boundaries you need to set with yourself! 

Technology makes it so easy to be connected all the time, whether that’s your laptop, tablet, TV and especially phones. Though all of these devices are useful (and essential), being constantly connected can have a negative impact on our sleep patterns and mental health. 

Try and set aside some time in the evenings for a digital detox. That could be a couple of hours when you finish work to spend time with your family or putting down your phone a little earlier and reading before bed instead of scrolling.

4. Move!

When working from home, it can be very easy to go all day without moving our bodies. This can leave us feeling stiff and tense, as well as mentally fatigued from spending all day doing the same thing. 

Using movement to break up the workday can help keep our minds and bodies fresh. Make sure you’re not spending work at your desk too, a change of scenery is important to keep us engaged. And you’re legally entitled to breaks – take them!

Here are some ways to get yourself moving during the workday:

  • Go for a short walk every couple of hours
  • Go for a longer walk, run or cycle in the middle or at the end of the day to reset your mind
  • Every hour or so, get up, stretch and do a quick burst of physical activity like jumping jacks, squats or running up and down the stairs!
  • Book an exercise class, arrange to meet up with a friend for a walk or agree to take your kids to the park after work. This means you’ll have a time where you need to stop working, as well as providing a buffer between the workday and your evening.

 

Exercising has been shown to lower anxiety and boost levels of happy hormones serotonin and dopamine in the brain, helping to lift your mood. If you manage to get outside for your movement, the effect is compounded, as just being outside has been shown to produce similar increases in serotonin and dopamine. 

5. Enjoy yourself!

One of the biggest perks of working from home is the ability to be more flexible with your time. It’s important to continue doing all the things that you love. Having a better work-life balance means that you should be able to embrace the things that you enjoy doing and that enrich your life for the better. 

Though we stressed the importance of a routine, sometimes it’s good to break out. Miserable day outside? No harm in staying under the duvet to work every now and again! Beautiful sunny day? Take the laptop on a little trip outside! 

You also might get to see the people that you love more, and we could all use a little love!

It also allows us more time to keep on top of pesky chores, as you can slot in quick tasks like putting the washing in throughout the working day. This means that you potentially have more free time in the evenings and weekends! 

It’s very important to remember to take your annual leave. It can be easy to forget about it or put it off for another time. Annual leave allows you to stay connected to the people you love, relax and recharge – all crucial things to support your mental health!

6. Stay connected

A lack of social interaction when working from home can really negatively impact our mental health, especially if we live alone. The spontaneous, everyday encounters we would have with our colleagues at the office just don’t happen when you need to pick up the phone or open Zoom. 

Because of this, we need to be proactive about maintaining these connections. Staying connected to your colleagues and developing positive relationships can help reduce stress at every level. Not only does it eliminate the anxiety of dealing with a virtual stranger, but you have someone to open up to and ask for help if you need to.

Try and schedule (or ask your manager to!) regular meetings with the whole team, as well as some potential out of hours socialising. If you don’t live close enough to your colleagues to socialise in person, maybe organise an after-work, virtual cocktail hour! It might be a little cringey to start with, but at least it’ll give you something to bond over!

 

 

Of course, without the daily interactions of our colleagues, our friends and loved ones outside of work become even more important. Try and make sure you’re having a conversation with someone every day, even if it’s just a quick chat over the phone. It can really help to keep loneliness at bay. 

If you don’t have anyone around and it’s not easy to have a chat every day, consider reading through this article on how to combat loneliness. It has some great resources to get in touch with others who share your interests. Please see the end of the article for more resources about loneliness.

What can I do as an employer?

As an employer of a team who works from home, you will need to shoulder some of the responsibility of looking after the mental wellbeing of your employees. Though many people love working from home, some find it very isolating and it is important that you support your employees. 

One essential way to foster a good work-life balance is to encourage your employees to take regular breaks away from the desk. It has been proved time and time again that short, regular breaks make people more productive. It will also help to create a positive working environment in which your employees know that you care about their welfare. 

Staying connected with your team is also important and group chats on channels like Slack and Microsoft Teams can help to keep some of that “water cooler chat” going.

You should also be having regular 1-to-1 meetings with all the members of your team. This means that you can assess their “normal” so you can sense when something is amiss, as well as helping support them towards their goals. 

If you’re not comfortable with being there as a direct sounding board for your employees about mental health matters, it is important to have somewhere to direct them.

Investing in good employee benefits means that you will be able to give your employees access to solid mental health support. 

Mental health support hubs can provide instant and in-depth support to employees who are struggling with their mental health. They will be able to provide much more tailored assistance to help your team get back to feeling their best. In the meantime, it is important to provide as much or as little support as they need and be flexible about things like working hours. 

Additional mental health support can mean the difference between feeling low for a few weeks and succumbing to a full-blown crisis. It’s the right decision, both for your employees’ mental health and their welfare. 

Using a broker like Lifepoint has many benefits, like helping you find a great deal on company health insurance. For no extra cost, you will save time, money and show your team that you are willing to invest in them. 

Get in touch with us now to find out how we can help!

If you don’t have anyone around and it’s not easy to have a chat every day, consider reading through this article on how to combat loneliness. It has some great resources to get in touch with others who share your interests. Please see the end of the article for more resources about loneliness.

Don't suffer in silence

There is lots more information out there about working from home these days, which can help you with any issues. We’ve included a few helpful pages below:

https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/toolkit/transition-out-of-lockdown-and-the-impact-on-your-work/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/

https://www.nhs.uk/every-mind-matters/coronavirus/simple-tips-to-tackle-working-from-home/

If you need mental health assistance urgently, please reach out to one of the resources below:

Samaritans

Telephone: 116 123 

Website: https://www.samaritans.org

What: 24/7 phone line open to provide confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line

Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday)

Website: http://www.rethink.org/about-us/our-mental-health-advice

What: Provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff.

The Mix

Telephone:  0808 808 4994 (11am-11pm, free to call)

Crisis Support: Text “THEMIX” to 85258

Website: www.themix.org.uk/get-support

What: The Mix provides judgement-free information and support to young people aged 13-25 on a range of issues including mental health problems.

Side by Side

Website: https://sidebyside.mind.org.uk/about

What: Side by Side is an online community where you can listen, share and be heard. Side by Side is run by Mind. 

Saneline

Text: 85258

Website: https://www.giveusashout.org/

What: Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.

Loneliness Resources

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