On the surface, working from home sounds like a dream. Many people conjure up images of themselves with their feet up, clad in comfy clothes, laptop balancing precariously on their lap while entertainment blares in the background and their favourite drink steams away beside them.
However some find in reality, working from home isn’t like that at all.
Sure, whilst the comfy clothes and favourite drinks and entertainment of choice can be all part of the package, sometimes working from home brings unforeseen problems like isolation, lack of productivity, loneliness and exacerbation of either existing, or undiagnosed, mental health issues.
In the most recent Finder UK survey, 60% of the workforce remain working from home under the COVID-19 restrictions, and 30.9% of workers say that they are struggling with loneliness as a result of it.
Loneliness and lack of socialization can have detrimental effects on those suffering with diagnosed, or undiagnosed mental health problems. Thankfully, the change in working conditions has given society a wider, more open platform to be able to speak freely about people’s struggles with their mental health.
Here are the five best tips as to how to better manage mental health when working in a home environment that have surfaced as a result of those ongoing, crucial conversations.
1.) Keep Connected
Just because the camaraderie of the office environment has gone, it doesn’t mean your colleagues have. Thankfully strides in technology mean that channels such as Discord, Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom can all be used to keep constant communication throughout the day.
Create instant messaging groups with your colleagues on Teams or Slack to keep an open channel for those watercooler moments, or for instant help when you’re stuck or demotivated. Schedule in one or two video meetings or calls a week too for face to face contact. If you and your colleagues used to take part in after work activities, add those into the virtual rota too!
2.) Get Dressed
While it may seem appealing to lounge around in pyjamas all day, loungewear and other casual clothes can be detrimental to switching into a working mindset.
Maintaining a routine of getting up and getting dressed, just as you would if you were commuting to an office, helps maintain structure and most importantly helps us switch into our professional, working modes as we look and feel ready for the day.
Working in loungewear can also damage our ability to switch off at the end of the day, too. Many of us associate our loungewear with being and feeling relaxed, so if instead we’re focused and working, the lines between home and work can begin to blur. This blurriness could begin to lead to burnout, which is a known catalyst of poor mental health.
3.) Make an Environment.
Depending on your living arrangements, sometimes this can be easier said than done. If a home office, or separate, enclosed area to work is not available to you, try experimenting with different spots around the house.
Keeping a distinct balance between home and work is key to keeping a healthy mindset, so working sprawled across the sofa is not recommended. Draw a clear line between your working environment, and your relaxing area.
4.) Decrease Distractions
When in your home environment, surrounded by televisions, Netflix, gaming consoles, mobile phones and a whole host of other attention stealers, it can be very easy to just “quickly check” this or that.
Those minutes spent scrolling through an unchanged Instagram feed, or catching the end of the show you’re sure you can multitask can make your productivity plummet, leading to you putting increased pressure and stress on yourself to churn out work to a deadline.
Treat your gadgets (and pets!) as though you were in the office. For example, if in the office you would only check your phone when you went to refresh your drink, enact the same routine at home. Take five minute breaks to reward yourself for completing a task and then pet the dog.
These small breaks can serve as great refresher moments too, and keeping to routine ensures you remain in that working mindset.
5.) Get Some Air
One of the best natural remedies for boosting our mental health is to get outside, get some exercise and breathe in some fresh air.
Finder’s study found that working from home was leading to people taking fewer breaks and dramatically shorter lunches, totting up to on average around 10 hours of unpaid work a week. So, make the most of that lunch break! You don’t have to go far, even a ten minute walk around the block can clear your mind, reset your focus and boost your happiness.
Al Chester is founder of Great Minds at Work and a lead Mental Health First Aid instructor. Al works both nationally and internationally, specialising in supporting employee wellbeing across businesses and creating mentally healthy workplaces.