Staying Well While Working
Look after your mental health
Our working lives have been changing for a while now – but the emergence of coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to a massive change, more uncertainty, and new challenges for many of us.
It's quite likely that we will need to accept a certain amount of distress and anxiety relating to the outbreak, in the short and medium term. If you have self-care techniques that work for you, try and make sure that you have what you need. You may need to think differently - for example doing exercise workouts from videos instead of attending classes. You may want to consider looking at mindfulness practices or finding ways to help others in your community. Self-compassion, and support for others is going to be very important.
If you have ongoing health or mental health conditions, even if they aren't disclosed, your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. In this case this could include home working adjustments, additional support from managers, or equipment.
For many of us IT and technology will be a lifeline during a period when our working patterns will change. It can be quite an adjustment though to do a lot online, and we aren't all tech geniuses:
- Ask for help with IT - If you aren't lucky enough to have an IT support department, ask a colleague.
- Use online training to guide you to learn new skills
- Try and use video calls whenever you can - there's no substitute for seeing another person's face.
- Try and keep your work channels clear for work topics - but create social channels too on your intranet or message board. Have a space where people can shoot the breeze or share pet pictures without talk of the virus - and have a separate space where people can find updates about policies and procedures relating to the outbreak.
- Think about your digital working style and how it fits with others in your team - you need to find a rhythm. Sending an email doesn't mean that everybody has read it - and some people like to send emails at off times - but they don't necessarily expect you to answer.
GETTING INTO A ROUTINE
Working from home or remotely can be very challenging and isolating. Sometimes out attention wanders, or we miss people. Having structure in your day can be a good way to address this.
- Designate a place to work that is as free of distractions as you can make it.
- Set a routine for working at home - its important to get up and get started, to take regular breaks including a lunch break, and to finish working and turn off at an appropriate time.
- No matter how tempting, avoid working in your pyjamas all day. This is likely a big change already so try not to lose all your daily routines at once.
- Try and set clear tasks for the day. You won't always get as much done at home but you might get loads done - don't be too hard on yourself.
- Have a proper lunch break. Stop, make something nice to eat, and eat away from your work area. Try and get outside and get some natural light if you can do so safely, and try some exercise, again within social distancing guidelines - it's easy to get dragged in to work out of hours.
- Use your diary to clearly say to others when you are working and when you are available to speak.
- Consider keeping a journal - ask "What was I grateful for today?" - and ask "What was I challenged by today?" - in a week or so you will start to get insights into things you can improve in your working pattern. Soon you'll get to know when you do your best focused work, or need the most input. At home that might be different to the office.
- When you are done for the day, pack away your work things or leave your work area at the end of the day.
- If you are home-schooling or looking after children whilst trying to work, have a conversation with work about those realities. Try and set up a routine whereby you have distinct times for working and for helping with school time. Dividing your attention may leave both things suffering and being there for children offering undivided attention at these uncertain times is very important.
KEEP UP THE FORMAL AND SOCIAL FLOW OF WORK
It's really important your mental health that both structured and unstructured connections with work and colleagues carry on whilst people are working remotely or flexibly:
- If you are a manager, discuss with your teams how you'd like to run supervision, check-ins, and sign offs remotely. Let people know how and when to contact you and try not to go outside those lines. You will soon get a routine established.
- Try to use video for all formal discussions, and any discussions where you are checking in on someone’s well-being - the non-verbal communication is key for this.
- Follow-up video chats or calls with a quick note with a summary of the actions to take, or your understanding of the major points to ensure that things are clear.
- If a new starter joins your team during this period, make sure you have a long videoconference induction with them and perhaps a virtual lunch. Acknowledge they’re not starting under ideal circumstances and this might stress them out on top of the common stress of wanting to demonstrate their skills and fit for the new job.
- Consider having break or lunch buddies to encourage you to take a break or a lunch break.
- Try and keep a separation between work and personal and respect the boundaries people have between work and home life.
There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak and people you talk to often want to talk about it. If you find that the news or constant discussion is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance.
It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and discussions with work colleagues about the outbreak as you need to keep informed, but limit your coronavirus news intake if it is bothering you.
Home working is a trend that has been accelerated during this time as companies move to collaborative platforms to continue communication and drive productivity and efficiency. If you need any help with a Home Worker Platform, call us on 0330 124 76 26 or visit our website https://www.help2change.org.uk/index.php/professional-support/home-worker-site.
Help2Change are a not for profit organisation that want to help other organisations survive through this difficult time and are offering a platform with a built in project manager, secure cloud shared area, a discussion forum and team calendar for free, including ongoing support.
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About the Author
Gemma is a financial accountant with wide experience of working in the public and voluntary sectors. She is passionate about promoting healthy public policy and restoring prevention services in response to funding pressures in the NHS and local government.