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Managing wellbeing when working from home

by maria
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Joe Gaunt, CEO hero

Many of us have been working exclusively from home for well over a year now, during this time we’ve had to quickly adapt to new routines and the extremes of isolation from friends and family and being overwhelmed by childcare, home-schooling and the added stress of the pandemic.  As we settle in to a new way of working, some of us might have made the permanent shift to working from home, while others will split their time between days in the office and remote working.

A shift in working patterns is bound to present new challenges when it comes to managing mental and physical wellbeing but a preventative and proactive approach to our whole-person health is exactly what is needed to successfully adjust to post pandemic times.

Pros and cons of working from home 

Covid-19 has definitely forged the way for new and flexible ways of working.  People found themselves being able to work from home when it wasn’t even considered to be an option before. The pandemic has brought about a once-in-a-generation opportunity to challenge the 9 to 5 office-centric image of work; for some this has been a welcome change and a chance to ditch the dreaded commute, while others have struggled with the lack of routine and interaction.

As with a lot of things, there are pros and cons to working from home. Research by Future Forum who interviewed 4,700 workers found that the majority never want to go back to the old way of working.  Only 12% of participants wanted to return to full-time office work, with 72% favouring a hybrid, remote-office model moving forward.

There are a number of reasons why working from home is a great option for many employees and small business owners. Here are just a few:

  1. No commute. Not having a long commute to and from work can save both time and money. It can even reduce daily stress levels.
  2. Greater flexibility. Working from home allows you to work during your most productive times, wear what you’re most comfortable in and create a workflow that works for you.
  3. Less distractions. While there may still be distractions at home, you can control them much more easily than you can in an office space with other people.
  4. Less stressful. Working from home is often less stressful. In your home you have more control over your stress levels and can more easily walk away or take a break when you feel the need to.

While there are many advantages to working from home, it’s also worth acknowledging the draw backs that come with remote working and the impact this can have on both mental and physical health.

  1. Requires self-discipline. Getting up and focusing on work when you are at home requires a great deal of self-discipline and motivation.
  2. You can feel isolated. Going from a busy office to working alone at home can be lonely. Working all day without the interaction with co-workers and colleagues can leave you feeling isolated.
  3. Harder to switch off. Working from home blurs the boundaries between work and home, making it harder to switch off at the end of the day and more likely to overwork.

You lose living space. Creating a home office or workspace can use up living space in your home.

  1. Relationships are harder to form. It’s difficult to establish trust and develop relationships with colleagues and clients when you don’t have the usual daily face-to-face interaction.
  2. There’s less ad hoc learning and creativity. Working with others provides an opportunity to learn from each other and bounce ideas off each other, leading to greater creativity. When you work from home this opportunity is lost and you need to make extra effort to seek out networking and learning opportunities.

A recent poll by Gallup found that fully remote workers are actually more prone to burnout than on-site workers. But how do you know if you’re even experiencing burnout and what are the sign to look out for? The Mayo Clinic describes job burnout as a ‘special type of work-related stress – a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity’.

Cara de Lange, hero Wellbeing Coach & Burnout Specialist says, “In order to avoid working from home burnout it’s crucial that you take time to switch off and plan in periods of rest. And combine them with ‘activities that bring you joy’.”

Cara recommends trying the R.E.S.T method to guide against potential burnout.

The  R.E.S.T Method

– R is for Review your day and plan breaks in advance (plan the night before)

According to research, if you decide where and when you will take specific action you will be closer to actually doing it.

– E is for Easy to Remember. Make your breaks easy to remember. Set a timer on your phone, put a 5-minute break on your calendar

– S is for Step away from the screen. During your break, make sure you don’t check email or social media. Researchers from the University of Illinois in America found that reading websites and checking email taxes many of the same mental processes that we use when we are working, which actually makes fatigue worse. So, if you want to combat screen fatigue, make sure you set regular boundaries around technology.

– T is for Tune back in- Refocus your cognitive energy to what you were working on.

Using the Rest method during your day is key and can also help you to get a good night’s sleep as well.

Maybe the perfect scenario is a hybrid working model which offers teams flexibility to work from home and in the office.  This way can combat the isolation and lack of contact with colleagues which comes from remote working.

It’s important to look for new ways and opportunities to stay connected, as well as effective methods of communication. This is where technology can really help.  Online wellness platforms have seen a rise in demand due to their ability to bring offices together, help to integrate new employees while supporting people’s mental and physical health. Introducing challenges such as ‘beat the steps’ can really bring in-office teams together and can be effective ice-breakers as well as boosting everyone’s physical health.

Physical and mental health come hand-in-hand and neither can be neglected when it comes to your overall health.  Working from home might mean you are more sedentary, so it’s important to take regular breaks and get outside.  Start your day with a brisk walk or jog and make the most of your lunch break by streaming an exercise class.  You could always use the time you would have been commuting to exercise or factor in some time to do something you enjoy.

According to figures from the ONS’s Opinions and Lifestyle survey, as many as one in five adults have experienced depression symptoms at some point during the pandemic. Now more than ever, people are likely to be experiencing greater levels of anxiety, burnout or financial pressure – none of which are easy things to open up about but can negatively impact your health.  Taking small preventative steps to benefit your whole-person health is crucial as we successfully adapt to post pandemic times and new ways of working.

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