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Working from home: a mental health crisis?

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It’s the new normal. But how has working from home truly impacted the mental health of employees?

By Kirsty Mason, SEO copywriter at Numan | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides, lead GP at Numan

To curb the spread of the virus, employees across the nation were encouraged to work from home. It was an easy transition for some but for others – who had to wave goodbye to elaborate coffee machines and breakout areas just to curl up on the edge of a single bed – the move was unwelcome.

Digital health clinic, Numan, recently ran a survey on the impact the pandemic has had on mental health and found that over a third of men had experienced burnout since the start of the pandemic. Burnout describes the process of prolonged job stress that leads to feelings of emotional and physical exhaustion, unworthiness and demotivation. Respondents also reported that work had the greatest negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

So if work is such a huge influence on our mental health, it begs the question: have we got it right?

As the effects of the pandemic tirelessly rage on, it’s clear that working from home will continue to be a part of the foreseeable future for businesses across the globe. Despite varying degrees of suitable space for those working from home, there are steps that can be taken to improve your general health and wellbeing.

With advice from the lead GP at Numan, Dr Luke Pratsides, we take a look at the best ways to improve your mental health while working from home:

1.  Do physical exercise

Numan’s survey found that the majority of respondents thought that exercise improved their mental health the most. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins in our brain, which boosts our mood.

“You should stand up and move about at least once every hour to reduce the risk of all sorts of health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr Pratsides. “Regular exercise also plays a huge role in maintaining good mental health so it’s important to stay active whilst working from home. Exercise outdoors is a massive mood booster.”

2.  Stick to a schedule

Working from home has created a tempting environment for busy workers who often find themselves tapping at their laptops way beyond normal working hours. “This is a huge no-no,” says Dr Pratsides. “Blurring the line between home life and work life wreaks havoc on our mental health. It’s important to set a schedule as you would if you were in an office. Make sure you’re switching off work notifications and taking time out for yourself every evening.”

3.  Create a working environment away from your bed

‘Work from bed’ has been a major trend over the pandemic – but is it a good work environment? Unfortunately for the snuggle-seekers, it’s not. Working from your bed will most likely disrupt your normal sleeping pattern, with your brain struggling to dissociate work from sleep.

 

“It’s worth investing in a good chair or asking your company if they can provide you with one,” explains Dr Pratsides. “Set up a working space away from your bed, even if it’s small. If you can set up an office space away from your bedroom entirely, such as in the living room, even better. Just be sure to look after your posture – a desk and chair is best.”

4.  Eat well

Although it can be tempting to reach for chocolate-smothered biscuits, especially without the watchful eyes of colleagues, an unhealthy diet is thought to negatively affect our mood. Bingeing on sugary or high-fat food, whilst initially satisfying, can lead to guilt and regret afterwards. Over time this can build up and compound, resulting in low mood and in susceptible individuals, a negative perception of one’s body image, worsening mood further. To avoid temptation, stock up on healthy snacks like fruits and nuts. Working from home is a good opportunity to prepare fresh lunches packed with nutrients.

5.  Spend time with loved ones

“The pandemic has been hard on parents having to juggle a full-time job with a house packed with children who would usually be in school. Although it’s a challenge, take working from home as an opportunity to appreciate the time you wouldn’t usually get to spend with them. Make sure that you take breaks and time out to chat with family and friends. After a year having had the usual social activities restricted, it’s important to reconnect and interact outside of the work environment,” Dr Pratsides explains.

Although working from home is taking its toll on many people’s mental health, it’s important to remember that the transition has brought about some positive change. Working from home gives you more time and flexibility to spend with loved ones, and no longer having frustrating commutes means the avoidance of stressful situations.

If you’re finding that working from home is becoming particularly draining, make sure you take the necessary steps, such as more exercise and a good work structure, to reduce work-related stress.

Kirsty Mason, SEO copywriter at Numan

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