Working from home wellbeing and employee mental health
Lockdown v 2.0 is well underway and many staff are facing more (or continuing) time working from home. This challenging landscape means that the mental health and wellbeing of employees has never been a more important consideration for employers.
In this article, we look at some practical tips for employers to consider implementing, sharing and promoting – all in the spirit of combating the increased risks of mental health problems caused by the impact coronavirus has had on our lives this year and further lockdowns.
Encourage best practice for employees working from home
Although lockdown is no longer new, not everyone will be used to working from home. Simple things like properly setting up a workspace that is separate from ‘home’ space, taking regular screen breaks and clearing away at the end of the day can help people switch off their ‘work mode’ and decompress.
The simplest tasks, like hiding your work phone in a drawer, closing your notebook, and tidying your stationery away can help compartmentalise and separate work from home.
Be flexible and compassionate
These are unique and extraordinary times which will be challenging for all of us in different ways. Examples such as elderly relatives who require assistance to managing childcare or the need to self-isolate will add to the stresses and strains of everyday life. Encouraging flexible working hours and paying extra attention to workload management will help employees balance their ‘work’ and ‘home’ lives.
With most of us working from home there is less room to bump into each other, chat organically, or discuss concerns we might have. Video calls are a great way to connect. Seeing a friendly face can mean more than just hearing a friendly voice.
Arranging more informal sessions such as a virtual team coffee every morning can help teams stay connected and reduce feelings of isolation.
Look at creating fun with how you connect too. Quizzes were a big thing in the first lockdown and we think they’ll play a part this time round. Activities such as this can – and in the main, should – include any employees who may be on furlough, helping them to stay connected and support their well-being and mental health too.
Make time for supportive conversations
Giving support to people who may be struggling with their mental health in a remote setting is vital. If you’re not sure how to, you could use mental health first aiders or train yourself to become one. Start by applying the same principles of having a supportive conversation as you would in person – set enough time aside, minimise distractions around you (you may need to move to another room), and give the person your full focus by turning off your notifications and other devices.
Whether you’re a Mental Health First Aider or just someone who wants to ensure they’re supporting colleagues effectively during this period, good advice is readily available.
Don’t pour from an empty cup
When supporting your employee’s wellbeing it is important to remember to prioritise your own wellbeing too. This will give you the best possible chance of providing effective support. Consider the support measures you have around you, whether that’s an Employee Assistance Programme, a peer support network, or Mental Health First Aiders, and encourage others to do the same.
Looking after our physical self to aid mental well-being
Exercise, eating well, and practicing self-care can have a big impact on mental and physical wellbeing. It can sound rather obvious but a little fresh air and exercise can go a long way. Where possible, we all should try to put exercise as a daily task, perhaps at a set time and stick to it.
It can be easy for us all to stay in our comfy, stretchy clothes and move from one room to another – depending on whether we’re working/eating/washing. In the short term it’s fine, and perhaps even enjoyable, but in the long term it’s surprising the effect this can have on mental well-being. It may sound silly, but dressing in “normal” clothes, and presenting yourself as you would if you were going to your usual workplace can make a big difference to how you feel. You can try this in non-work settings too – there’s no reason you can’t wear your finest gladrags in 2020, even if it is to sit down to dinner with those in your own home!
Eating well isn’t always easy when we are in lockdown, with easy access to delivery services such as Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Even so, not having to commute should enable us more time for cooking fresh and healthy food. Let’s not forgot to treat ourselves now and again though.
Set tasks and allow yourself to do nothing
We all know that if you look hard enough there is always something to do. It is important to set yourself tasks in order to solve the material and conceptual items that affect our lives. One key part of that list should be that you take time out to do nothing. A bit of escapism through a book or film can go a long way. Meditation or a period of quiet reflection, if that’s your thing.
The important thing is, it’s your time to do whatever you want – just keep it light.