BY: Cheryl Lythgoe- Matron at Benenden Health
Nationally, our ways of working are changing, with many employees across the country now working remotely in a range of sectors. But given the current situation, some of the working from home benefits aren’t currently available, and this imposed style doesn’t suit everyone. So how can we manage the stressors that working from home delivers?
Work Life Balance
It’s vital to recognise the importance of our work life balance, which needs to support all areas of our life. If we allow these lines to be blurred then we run the risk of not mentally and physically switching off. When working from home, you should maintain normal working hours and practices where possible; get ready for work as normal, take regular breaks, schedule in a lunch period and ensure any work-related tasks are finished at business close of play. If possible, place your workstation away from your relaxing space and remember to switch off any work-related technology at the end of the day.
The conversations we have with our colleagues, friends and business partners enrich (and irritate) our days – sometimes in equal measure. Ensuring we maintain connectivity with all whilst in isolation enables us to boost our positive emotions and embeds our place within the workforce. Having working days with no ‘water cooler’ conversations makes for a very isolated and vanilla existence which can then impact upon our home lives. Therefore, make your own ‘water cooler’ moments – whether these are through digital platforms, telephone calls, social media or the vintage pen and paper method – it’s important to stay connected.
Schedule, Plan and Diarise
Working from home can sometimes mean our normal business processes go astray, which can lead to a more frenetic approach and a feeling of a loss of control. Maintain and utilise the skills of staging and organising your working day. This provides some structure and helps to manage and prevent the chance of burnout. Remember it’s vitally important to schedule in your lunch, have a pre-set and met finish time, some discussion sessions with colleagues to allow rounded bodies of work to be produced and those important socially-relevant discussions too.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Just like a car, if our bodies aren’t fuelled appropriately we will be ineffective or not run at all! It’s important for our physical and mental health to ensure that we feed our bodies properly. Research evidence tells us that if we are dehydrated or nutritionally deficit then our chances of poor mental wellbeing will be increased.
It’s important that we drink plenty throughout the day, and it’s healthier to drink water, therefore alternate your caffeine with a glass of water. Many of us may skip lunch to finish that important report, take that phone call, or check on our emails but the lack of a sandwich delivery, or local shop shouldn’t stop us feeding our bodies during the day – and no, a packet of chocolate digestives doesn’t suffice! Use your lunch time to step away from your desk, make yourself a quick and healthy lunch and then consider a gentle walk to regenerate the body and mind before stepping back into work mode.
When we work regularly with our colleagues we often notice the subtle signs that stress can show, changes of behaviour, dress and workflow. Yet unfortunately when we are working from home these subtle signs aren’t often picked up, with the signs becoming invisible to our colleagues. Listen to your family and friends if they are commenting that you’re being grumpy, unreasonable or ‘a pain’ and consider if this could be a sign of stress, and if so can you manage that? If you feel as though your stress levels are climbing, have these discussions with a trusted colleague, mental health first aider or your manager. Sharing a worry, concern or stress can often allow us to unpick the reasons and actively manage the reasons. Taking back control of some of the stressors allows us to be the positive influencer, not the passive reactionist.
Finally, a recent key phrase that has been used from social media to health literature is around being kind. If we cannot be kind to ourselves then we will struggle to be kind to others. Stress is a necessary part of life – we all need a certain amount of stress – it is only when that stress exceeds what the body and mind can manage at that time when issues may occur. Be kind to yourself, recognise the stress and be your own positive influencer.
Benenden Health has produced a Coronavirus hub on its website with tips and information about how to stay healthy and look after yourself in isolation.