A positive response to working from home in a crisis is critical to your mental health and wellbeing. Happy, healthy and productive is what we are aiming for. Here are some useful tips from Heart of the City, LCCI staff and beyond.
Reaction to being asked to work from home whilst others are furloughed
It is not unusual to experience a broad range of emotions in response to being asked to work from home whilst colleagues are being furloughed around you – jealous that they’ve been given what is being called ‘the gift of time’; resentful that they are receiving 80% of their pay (up to £2500 per month) for doing 0% of their work; stressed about the increased workload and pressure caused by significantly shrunken teams and lost expertise; afraid of burn out and letting the team down; feeling a need to put pressure on yourself to perform; worried for colleagues who’ve been furloughed and guilty that you haven’t been.
Being mindful of those on furlough
Some staff on furlough are responding well to the ‘gift of time’, others want to keep in touch with those working. They may be feeling rejection at being selected; fear about job security and prospects; anxiety, abandonment and exclusion from workplace relationships, activities and information; concerned about financial impact; bored caused by a lack of purpose, structure and meaning to the day; disappointment at not being part of the effort to sustain the business; worry about the loss of distraction from a challenging home environment. Whilst you should not discuss work with furloughed friends and colleagues, you can (and should try to) have social conversations, highlighting to relevant if you have any concerns about mental welling – yours or theirs – as a result of such conversations.
Think about your new daily routine as life is changing for all for a while
Try and resist the temptation to stay in your pyjamas! Get dressed and showered to get you in the right frame of mind for work. Set ground rules with other members of your household and establish roles that balance work, caring responsibilities, social activities and ‘me time’.
Find a suitable place to work
Try to apply good practices from office work-station set-up but above all aim for comfort. In the absence of an office, desk and chair, be creative. Adapt chairs you have using cushions, adapt the height you work at using kitchen worktops, tables, windowsills, the ironing board and or a pile of books! Stand up for periods when using your screen and take regular breaks. For social calls (including those to colleagues on furlough) move away from your ‘desk’. Avoid distractions; set times for personal calls and emails; try to work in natural daylight; play music rather than have TV on.
Be realistic about what you can achieve and take control of the things you can
Suddenly being packed off with a laptop and a set of instructions as to how to access systems is a challenge if you have not done it before. It gets better and you will find your way through. Be patient with yourself and do not be afraid to ask for help. Email is not always the answer – use it to acknowledge receipt of requests – even if it’s a holding response; but it is difficult to retract anything in an email so avoid high risk/potential conflict messages – call instead. Try to give email senders the benefit of the doubt and ask them to explain any ‘hurtful’ or ‘negative’ messages rather than let them fester. Just because a colleague sends you an email in the early or late hours because it fits with their scheduling, doesn’t mean you have to reply immediately. Agree core hours with your manager and be available during them.
Signal the end of the working day
Try and do something to separate the evening from the working day so you are not going straight from your kitchen table to your sofa. Shut your laptop down at the end of the day, put it away and turn your phone off.
Make time to do things you enjoy
It is easy to be logged into work 24/7; do not do it! Just because you are working and don’t have time to think you may still experience anxiety and at these times it’s easy to do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focusing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood. If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials, courses, pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts online; take part or adapt their ideas to suit you.
Keep your mind active on things other than work
Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Learn something new. Find something that works for you.
Take time to relax and focus on the present
This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future, and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help deal with feelings of anxiety.
Every Mind Matters
NHS’ mindfulness page
Look after your physical wellbeing
Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise and try to avoid smoking, drugs and excess alcohol. If you have a bad day, don’t worry; focus on making the next day better; calling on someone’s help if you are struggling to do so on your own.
NHS Fitness Studio
Look after your sleep
Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.
Every Mind Matters sleep page
Do not social distance virtually - Connect with others
Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether people you normally see often or connecting with old friends. Try to avoid the ‘glass is half-empty’ contacts if you’re not feeling on top form.
Help and support others
Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Try to be accepting of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours.
Be realistic: you are not a teacher. On average, a child’s concentration span is two to five minutes for each year of their age. Prepare for short bursts of work to best use the times that they are occupied. Everyday activities are learning opportunities. Remember that most people are understanding. Everyone knows children aren’t silent so don’t stress over background noises when you are on the phone or visitors on your video call. Block out time in your calendar when you have to be care-giving, to avoid awkward meeting requests. Make sure colleagues are aware if you are juggling homeworking and homeschooling/
caring responsibilities so they can respond appropriately. Discuss more flexible hours with your manager, they will respond positively to any such requests.
Talk about your worries
This is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do talk to friends, family or colleagues, check out NHS recommended helplines or find support groups online to connect with.
Try to manage difficult feelings
Many people find the news about coronavirus concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared. It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.
Don’t be a news junkie
Manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage.
Try not to feel guilty; you cannot be everything to everyone at once, and that’s OK. If things get too much, stop and reconfigure; reach out for help. The mental wellbeing of you and your loved ones is what is most important.