For many of us, our working lives have now changed significantly for the foreseeable future. Some of us are balancing working at home with caring responsibilities, as many of us are at home with our children and some of us are caring for our elderly parents or family. Some of us are single parents who are trying to manage alone with our kids, whilst others are co-parenting. Others may live alone and be experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Many are facing insecurities in our jobs and household incomes. We have all experienced a steep learning curve as we adapt to new ways of working, using new technology and new ways of communicating on a daily basis. These significant changes can affect our mental health in various ways – you may feel anxious, stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, worried that you are not doing a good job at anything!
We have all had to adapt to working at home and the different pressure and stress that puts upon each of us. With no real idea if or when we will all return to our normal working routines, Equate Scotland has complied our top tips of what you can do to maintain a healthy mind whilst working at home.
1. Stay connected
As well as having regular work meetings via Zoom/MS Teams to keep up to date with work plans and activities, it is also important to schedule regular social online meetings and events to help keep connected with your colleagues. The social calls create time to catch up with colleagues on a personal level and hear what’s been happening in their personal live – the day to day chat that would just happen in the office but that we all miss so much working remotely. At Equate we have scheduled team quiz and game nights, a number of COT (Cup of Tea) catch ups, or an opportunity to sit with a drink of your choice (wine or gin in most cases) and have a blether on a Thursday or Friday evening after normal work hours.
2. Take a break
It’s all too easy to sit at your laptop day after day being ‘present’ at your dining room table/home office, however it’s important to break the day up by taking regular breaks. This might be to stop for 30 minutes for a coffee, to go for a walk during your lunch, or take your kids to the park so you can all get fresh air and exercise. You may be finding it difficult to concentrate, so take breaks in short bursts to help keep clarity.
3. Keep a routine in place
Most of us are creatures of habit and prior to COVID had some kind of daily routine that we worked to most days of the week. However, with most of us switching to working at home, it’s still important to try to keep some kind of regular routine in place but one that works for you and your individual circumstances. That may mean adjusting your work pattern and working flexibly in order to fit our family lives around work. Try to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
4. Don’t fully schedule your working day
Now that we don’t have to travel to attend meetings, it can be tempting to fill up the calendar with many more meetings than we would normally have. Video conferencing uses a lot of energy and can lead to ‘zoom fatigue’, but it can also result in generating more work and ‘actions’ without us necessarily having more capacity to fulfil these tasks. Block out parts of your calendar to avoid the temptation to say yes to every meeting request straight away, and if possible try to set aside one day where you can minimise the number of online meetings you attend.
5. Be kind
Remember we are all under extreme pressure and facing new and daily challenges as we adapt to working at home. Encourage and remind your work colleges and yourself what a great job you are doing and what you have achieved as an individual and as a team. Be kind, supportive and understanding of one another as every person has their own individual circumstances and emotions that they are dealing with.
6. Switch off
Remember to keep clear distinctions between work and non-work time, in both your physical workspace and your head space – know when to switch off every day/night. If it helps, clear your work area at the end of each day to help switch back into non-working mode.
7. Learn and develop
Use this time to learn, grow and develop – to refresh or build new skills that will be useful in your job/career. This could be signing up for online webinars or training courses, revisiting your work objectives, taking stock of what you have achieved or reviewing and assessing your current career plan. It may also include carrying out work tasks or admin that you don’t normally get time to do in the work place such as reviewing and adapting processes and policies that will enable you to adapt under the current situation, implementing new systems, analysing key data you have collected, data cleansing, or creating new content for marketing purposes. Tasks that will make you, the team and the organisation more effective and efficient when we do finally return to some kind of normal.
8. Use your annual leave
If you have annual leave, use it to break up the weeks you work from home. Many people may not want to take their leave as you feel you can’t go anywhere or do anything you would normally do during annual leave, but breaking the weeks up will help to recharge your batteries and break up the monotony of constantly being at home.
9. Embrace the kids
The unpredictability of our kids whilst working from home can be stressful at times to say the least. The kids may interrupt your video conference call, hang up on your call altogether, create noise in the background whilst trying to have a conversation with someone on the telephone, or perhaps the kids fight, shout or cry – generally demanding your attention. A lot of us are in the same boat, so advise people that you have kids at home that may interrupt. Embrace the kids and the distractions they cause and don’t be apologetic! The majority of people are understanding and will appreciate your circumstances. Remember the kids will be experiencing their own emotions whilst they adapt to their parents working at home too!
10. Practice Self-Care
As well as the obvious things such as eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep, it is important to try to make some time and space for yourself. This could be anything from making time to do something you enjoy such as reading a book or magazine, watching a movie or making time for your hobby; to having a relaxing bath or treating yourself to your favourite take-away. We are all living through challenging times and a lot is expected of us by many people. If we don’t take time to look after ourselves, we will struggle to provide what is needed by other people.