Working From Home

illustration of a man working on a laptop computer inside a house
When we started the year in January, I don’t think many of us would have expected to be working from home for an indefinite period of time, as we are now. Staying motivated, retaining work-life balance and video conferences have some what become the norm of late. But how can we retain our mental health during this time of uncertainty and social distancing?


1. Dress for the job you still have.
It might be a temptation to just stay dressed in your pj’s or sit around in your ‘joggers’ whilst working from home. Dressing in some of your work attire, can actually help to put your brain into ‘work mode’. Getting dressed in the morning as you normally would can aide with the feeling that you are actually going to work. Don’t miss out on the morning shower either! A cool shower in the morning can also help boost your mood and focus your attention.


2. Structure and Routine
Routine and structure are crucial to making the quarantine period tolerable, and that starts with your sleep. Resist the urge to hit the snooze button! If you used to commute, do something positive with the time you have saved, such as cooking a healthy lunch or going for a jog. Do your most important work when you feel most energised, and look at writing a weekly planner not just a daily one, this should help your most important jobs jump out at you.


3. Protect your mental health.
As if a lethal pandemic wasn’t enough to trigger anxiety and depression, research suggests that remote workers can also be prone to bouts of poor mental health. As well as switching off the laptop at the end of the day, make sure you do pleasurable activities for mood elevation. If you feel yourself becoming anxious, switch to exercise, reading, listening to podcasts, creative pursuits, intellectual pursuits. Try meditation to help you relax. Also take this time to catch up with friends and family and get to know them like never before. It’s important that we stay in touch with people but also that it’s not just a touch-base focus on the coronavirus. Actually, show interest in the other person. If you suffer acute moments of panic or anxiety, practising breathing techniques can help, as can talking about your emotions. Otherwise, try to look for the benefits of being at home.


4. Create Boundaries
Do what you can to physically separate your working space from your living space, especially if you have kids at home. Even the shortest distraction can kill your productivity. Don’t have kids? Then self-isolate from that other great dependent: your phone. Stepping away from tasks occasionally is a good idea, though. “Get away from the computer but keep a pad and pen with you.


5. Sit near a window
We are more comfortable sat with our backs to the wall and a view of the door or window. We believe that we evolved to prefer these settings because these factors could have contributed to our survival by being the safest places we could be. A view of trees or even a picture of scenery on your wall can help. If you can find a room with a view of any kind of nature then this has the ability to reduce blood pressure and the circulation of stress hormones, and it increases the capacity for directed attention, which is the ability to focus.


6. Combat Loneliness
Remember we’re social animals, part of the reason we go to work is that we love being with other people. Nobody should take the threat of loneliness lightly during the pandemic because it can lead to poor mental and physical health in other areas. Petting your pets and face-timing your family are no-brainers, but don’t forget about your colleagues, too. Using virtual spaces to meet up is really good. a lot of the time we spend interacting at work is not actually about work (don’t tell your boss). That type of interaction is likely to be what we miss when we are self-isolating. So, I would recommend meeting colleagues or friends on-line for regular coffee breaks or lunch, so you don’t miss out on that type of social interaction.


7. Learn something new
Work is likely to slow down for many people during the pandemic but this in itself can create an opportunity. Think about what else you can do during this period to develop another line to your work. Maybe an IT course, maybe a language, do something to keep yourself cognitively active. You might never get this kind of window to learn something again. Use it.
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