The recent coronavirus lockdown and restrictions mean that the majority of us are working from home these days.
It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
…No leaping out of bed the moment the alarm goes off…
…No frantic rushing around to get the kids ready for nursery or school…
…No getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the M6 for hours…
…No need to even change out of your pyjamas if you don’t want to!
But the reality is often far more challenging for your mental health and well-being than you’d expect.
Distractions are everywhere, you miss your colleagues, and, honestly, you never realised that small humans could create quite so much noise and disruption.
Here are some tips to help you stay sane (and productive) while working from home.
Spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine is a great way to shake off the cobwebs, lift your spirits and even improve your health. That’s why, even if your workday involves spending hours at your desk, you should spend as much time outside as you can
“Most of us feel better when the sun is shining,” says Mowers Online, “but research has shown that just being outdoors increases the production of endorphins improving clarity and a sense of emotional well-being.”
So why not start your day by enjoying a cup of coffee on your balcony or in your garden? Or take your lunch outside and soak up some sunshine? Or give your garden some TLC at the end of your working day. when you’ve finished work for the day?
Even those small things will make a huge difference in how you feel during these challenging times.
Take a break
It can be oh-so tempting to skip breaks so you can deal with a heavy workload or get more done, especially when you have a flexible schedule. But it’s actually the worst thing you can do for both your productivity and your overall well-being.
According to psychology magazine, Psychology Today, “Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative.”
So if you want to feel good and perform as well as you usually would, you need to take those breaks.
Aim to get up and move around at least once per hour, even if you just pop to the loo or pop the kettle on or walk across the room to stroke your dog.
You’ll give your body a break from sitting for hours, you’ll get your blood flowing and you’ll return to your desk feeling much better.
Claim your workspace
Find a dedicated, relatively quiet space to work from if you can, preferably away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of your home.
This will help you to slip into the right work mindset when you sit down at ‘your desk’, allowing you to focus more easily and be your usual productive self, even if the kids are being too rowdy in the background.
You’ll also create clearer boundaries between your work time and your leisure time and so find it easier to switch off at the end of another long hard day. Because you’ll get more done, your stress levels will drop, and you’ll be much more fun to be around!
Stick to a routine
Routines are really important during times of crisis or uncertainty because they provide structure, safety and predictability. By adopting one, you can better manage your stress and anxiety levels and feel more in control of your day-to-day life.
As depression awareness organisation Blurt It Out says; “Routine can aid our mental health. It can help us to cope with change, to form healthy habits, and to reduce our stress levels.”
But that’s not all.
When you have your routine in place, you’ll avoid some of the most common distractions and knock more off your to-do list. This translates to more free time you can spend doing the things you most love.
If you’ve never been a big fan of structure, don’t panic. Your personal daily schedule doesn’t have to be rigid, highly structured or anything like your previous daily routine unless you want it to be.
You now have the flexibility to choose, so create the routine that best suits you. Catch up on your sleep if you want to. Or do a sweaty lunchtime workout via YouTube. Hang out with your friends for coffee via Zoom every afternoon at 3pm.
Find what works then use it to guide you through the day.
Stay connected to others
One of the disadvantages of working from home is the loneliness and isolation that many feel. This is natural when you’re not working within earshot of each other and can’t quickly catch up on all the gossip next to the photocopier.
But thanks to modern tech, you don’t have to feel quite so isolated. By using tools like Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and email, you can stay in touch with those who you care about, even when you can’t be there in person.
Ask for help if you need it
If you find that working from home is becoming unbearable and you’re struggling with feelings of anxiety or depression, don’t suffer alone.
Reach out to trusted friends and loved ones and open up about how you’re feeling. They should be able to offer words of reassurance and support during these uncertain times.
If the feelings persist, it’s worth making an appointment with your GP or calling the mental health helpline run by MIND.
Despite not having to worry about the rush hour commute and office politics, working from home can often take its toll on your mental health and wellness.
Follow the simple tips shared here and you’ll stay more positive, feel less isolated and take care of your happiness and well-being. Which will you try first?