Millions of people are currently working from home. While we’ve been writing for years on this blog about the benefits of working from home, there can be some disadvantages, particularly for people who did not chose to be at home.
If you’re working from home, and you’re finding it hard to adjust, it’s crucial to prioritize health and wellbeing. In this guide, we’ll discuss the importance of mental health and offer some tips and advice for effective, stress-free remote working.
Establish a routine
One of the main differences between working at home and going to the office every day is the lack of structure. If you’re due to start work at 9 am, for example, your weekdays would usually involve setting an alarm, getting up, eating breakfast, grabbing a quick shower, getting dressed and driving, walking, or taking the bus or train to work. When you work from home, your routine automatically changes.
While there are obvious benefits of not having to contend with rush hour traffic or get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds on the subway, many people are more comfortable when their days follow a set pattern. If you tend to be more productive when you have a routine, establish a regime for working from home. Many businesses have core hours, which may afford you the option to enjoy greater flexibility while you’re based at home. If you have to be available for meetings or calls between 10 am and 3 pm, for example, and you’re required to work 8 hours per day, you can choose to start and finish early or start the working day at 10 am and work through until 6 pm. Play to your strengths. If you’re a morning person, get started as soon as you wake up and tackle priority tasks first.
Your routine should not be focused solely on managing your workload. It’s also beneficial to get into the habit of making time for other activities, for example, exercise or taking a walk and getting fresh air. Being organized can help you reduce the risk of stress and find a better work-life balance.
Dedicate Space to Work
Some people enjoy working from home, while others find it challenging, especially when it comes to concentrating and dealing with distractions. If you’re trying to work and you keep getting interrupted, or it’s virtually impossible to focus because it’s noisy, it’s essential to set aside a dedicated workspace. If you can’t concentrate, or you’re finding it much harder to complete tasks, this will undoubtedly contribute to increased stress levels.
Find a quiet spot and ask to be left alone if you share your home with friends or your partner is also working from home. There are several options when it comes to creating a temporary office space at home. You can make use of spare bedrooms or reception rooms you don’t use frequently, for example, a dining room or snug, you could convert part of a garage into a study, or you could work in a conservatory. If you don’t have spare living space, section off part of the kitchen or living room.
You could use screens to provide privacy and take advantage of flexible, versatile furniture to design dual-purpose spaces. Extendable tables, for example, will allow you to turn a kitchen or dining table into a desk in an instant without taking over the whole room. Once you’ve finished, you can pack up your stuff, fold the table and you’ve got your dining room or kitchen back. If working from home is a long-term goal, and you have the means to do so, you could consider projects like converting an attic, adding an extension or putting a garden room at the back of the house.
Take a Break
When you work at an office, or you travel to a workplace every day, your day is broken up. You have a journey in the morning, you have a lunch break, you might have meetings in different locations and you make your way back home in the evening. When you work from home, there’s no change of scenery, and this can make the days more monotonous. If you find that you get tired in the middle of the afternoon, your concentration wanes, or you get bored of sitting in the same place staring at the screen for hours on end, schedule regular breaks.
Stretch your legs, go for a walk, give your brain and your eyes a rest and recharge your batteries. You can even play online games that will allow your brain a chance to breathe — and provide greater focus. Even a five minute break can help you focus for longer and get through the rest of your to-do list.
It’s important to consider mental clarity versus brain fog. If you’re getting distracted easily, your attention span is shorter than normal, or you feel generally exhausted or disinterested, you may be experiencing brain fog. Taking time out can help to maintain clarity, increase productivity and help you feel sharper and more alert.
Maximize Natural Light
Studies show that natural light can have a positive impact on energy levels, efficiency and productivity. Whether you’re working in the living room or a home office, it’s beneficial to maximize natural light. Open curtains and blinds fully and try and position your desk close to a window or door. It’s not possible for everyone, but it can be particularly helpful to angle your chair so that you have a view of a field, your garden or blue skies. If you’re working in a dark, cramped room, consider painting the walls white or a neutral shade and hanging mirrors on the wall to bounce light around. Decluttering can also help to make spaces look larger and lighter.
Exercise is one of the most effective natural health remedies. Physical activity enhances mental wellbeing, as well as boosting physical health and reducing the risk of illness and injury. If you’re tired, or you feel stressed out, the last thing you might want to do is go for a run or get on an exercise bike, but working out, or even going for a stroll, can make a huge difference to your energy levels and your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, also known as happy hormones, and it also triggers an increase in serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that make you feel good. Try and focus on the benefits of moving your body and muster up the energy and enthusiasm to leave your desk. If you go for a bike ride, you walk the dog, you go for a jog or you do a yoga session, a HIIT workout or a virtual personal training session at home, you’ll feel better for it. If you’re new to exercise, you don’t have to commit hours to working out to get in shape and reap the mental health rewards of being more active. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This can include anything from dancing, walking, cycling and jogging to swimming, playing golf, doing Pilates or trampolining. Any activity that gets your heart beating will benefit you.
We often associate diets with physical health, but the foods we eat can also influence mental wellbeing. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for maintaining high energy levels, boosting immunity and facilitating concentration. There’s nothing wrong with the odd treat but try to avoid grazing and snacking throughout the day and make sure that you eat healthy, nutritious meals. A hearty breakfast, such as a plate of avocado or eggs on whole-grain toast, a bowl of oatmeal or an omelet, will ensure you stay full until lunchtime. Foods that are high in sugar cause energy levels to spike and dip.
Many people who are working from home at the moment are used to being in a busy office, with colleagues to talk to and friends to hang out with during lunch breaks and on the commute home. Being at home can get lonely, especially if you live alone. If you feel isolated, or you’re missing your colleagues, family and friends, make time to socialize virtually. Organize catch-ups with your work friends outside of working hours and keep in touch with relatives through social media, texting and video calls. Even a five minute call, or a burst of messages in the group chat can lift your spirits and make you feel happier and more content.
Working from home is brilliant for some people, but it doesn’t suit everyone. If you’re struggling, you’re having more bad days than good, or you feel stressed, down or lonely, don’t be afraid to seek help. You could reach out to friends or colleagues you are close to, talk to family members or contact charities that provide mental health support. We are living in strange times, and it’s perfectly understandable to feel daunted by the headlines and to have days when you feel anxious, scared or worried. You can talk to your doctor or book a virtual appointment with a therapist if you feel more comfortable chatting with somebody you don’t know. Often, we feel like we can be more open when talking to people who don’t know us, rather than close friends or family.
Make Time for Hobbies
Many of us complained that we never had enough time before lockdowns became part and parcel of our lives. Staying at home has afforded most of us more free time and it has also made us evaluate what is important to us. Use your time wisely. Hobbies are an excellent way to de-stress, use time constructively, broaden your horizons, make new friends and have fun. From writing, baking and painting to playing or writing music, doing yoga or gardening, having a hobby can improve mental health and aid relaxation.
When we talk about health, we often focus on physical health. The pandemic has caused many of us to consider our mental wellbeing too. Working from home is not easy, and it’s essential to prioritize mental health and look after yourself.Category: Working From Home
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