How to stay mentally healthy when working from home

With COVID-19 meaning that many are choosing to self-isolate before things get worse, how do you remain mentally healthy if you’re stuck at home and still working?

Lone working isn’t for everybody – in fact, the very idea of it is a nightmare for some people. Maybe they’re easily distracted, or prone to loneliness and depression, or simply don’t have a good working set-up at home to cope with it. Whatever the reason, working from home can be difficult – so how do you remain mentally healthy when forced to do so? David Price, workplace wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured, explains all.

It can’t have escaped your notice that more and more businesses are shifting to remote working right now, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. For many, this is a sudden change borne out of immediate necessity. How can you make sure people are keeping on top of their mental health in such a time?

There are, after all, plenty of negatives to working from home. Sometimes it becomes difficult to separate your work life from your home life, especially when they both take place in the same area. It can also get a bit lonely, without the commute and your co-workers around you and you might find yourself becoming far less active—especially the conscientious among you who usually walk or cycle to work every morning.

Of course, there are positives among the gloom. Remote workers are often more productive, more engaged, more loyal and have lower levels of absenteeism; in fact, research has shown that 54% of workers say they would change jobs for one which offered more flexibility. 

So, what can you do to keep yourself sane and healthy if you’re sent home to work at short notice?

Draw a line between work and home: more straightforward than it sounds. Make sure you have a dedicated area where you can work, and nothing else, even if it’s just a corner of the kitchen table. Treat this as your office for now, and take regular breaks.

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Stick to your hours: it can be tempting to get slack and start work a little later—or to keep burning through your tasks throughout the evening. This is counterproductive—best practice dictates that you ought to keep to your regular hours. No-one is expecting you to work more (or less!) while you’re at home.

Keep yourself positive: take advantage of being at home to set the mood. You don’t even have to wear pants if you don’t want to (but you probably should!) Make that nice coffee you keep as a treat, listen to the music no-one else in the office likes, burn some incense, and keep the thermostat at the perfect temperature for you.

If you’re an employer who is unused to remote work, it can feel a little daunting to let your people off the leash. Here are a few ways to support and care for your employees.

  • Communicate – stay in touch and talk regularly. 
  • Check-in at least once every hour at first—not in a snooping or invasive way – literally ask how people are doing, and if you can help.
  • Set up a group channel – use Microsoft Teams or get a WhatsApp group together so everyone can stay in touch in real-time.
  • Encourage people to work within the hours they should. If you see someone online, beavering away at seven pm, make sure they understand that they’re not expected to.
  • Reward and reassure people—make sure they know that they’re just as valued wherever they might be.

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