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Protecting Your Mental Health When Working from Home

Although businesses and hospitality are gradually opening their doors once again, there is still a way to go before we can officially say that normality has been restored.

Even then, however, the relaxing of restrictions does not necessarily herald a return to the working world of yesteryear. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the benefits of working from home for those who otherwise would not have had the chance, many believe some form of flexible working may be here to stay. Once the genie has been let out of the bottle, it may be hard to put it back in.

While the lack of commuting (and the very casual dress code!) may appeal, it would be remiss to say working from home does not have its disadvantages. The blurring of work and home spaces can be taxing on your mind, so we have several suggestions to protect your mental health.

Routine, routine, routine

The office environment is designed to maximise productivity and focus. While there are many aspects that are impossible to recreate at home (the presence of your colleagues, for example), what you can implement is a routine. To-do lists and timetables are your best friend: maintaining a structured account of what needs completing will keep your brain on task

On the other end of this, planning your work day also creates an end goal for you to achieve. Without a set time to clock out, you can find your days stretching on far too late and even bleeding into one another – in one study, 52% of remote workers said they ended up working longer at home than they did at the office. Setting a definitive final task of the day gives you something to continue working towards and a signal for you to switch from your work-self to your home-self.

Changing spaces

Without the physical environment of the office, it's challenging to get yourself back into the working headspace. Creating a separate space purely for your work is an absolute must, both to maximise your productivity and to physically distance your work from your home life.

When designing your home office, choose somewhere with plenty of natural light and greenery. You are going to spend a lot of time in this space, so it's incredibly important to make sure it’s a positive environment. Of course, you should not fill the room with too many distractions, otherwise you risk zoning out and falling behind on your work, which can have severely negative effects on your mental health.

Communication is key

Even though you are no longer physically around your colleagues, it's important to maintain your connections to them and the rest of the outside world. The fact is, everyone is going through the same difficulties, so reaching out to those you wouldn’t normally speak to can be an excellent way of maintaining a positive outlook.

It's also important to communicate with those sharing your household. Whether this is to set clear boundaries to ensure you can get on with your work, or simply checking in to see how they are coping, maintaining communication is key to protecting your mental health. Humans are social animals and, although it is not the same as face-to-face contact, we have a wealth of technology at our fingertips to keep our social network afloat even during the pandemic.

There are numerous ways to protect your mental health when working from home, and it’s likely that you’ll have to try a number of different strategies to find the right mix for your personal situation. It’s easy to forget about our mental health sometimes, and to fight through the feelings or difficulties we may be having, but it’s important to recognise the signs and see if any changes to our working situation can help. If you’re worried about your mental health, talk to your GP about the help that’s available for you through the NHS. There are also dedicated charities such as Mind, which provide further information and support. 

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Heather Bradford
Business Adviser
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