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May 23, 2020

Big C’s Wellbeing Blog: How to work well from home

How to work well from home

By Julie Taaffe
Photo of Julie Taaffe with text over the image stating 'Big C's Wellbeing Blog. How to work well from home. Written by Julie Taaffe'.

Due to these unprecedented times, some of you may have been asked by your employer to work from home (WFH), or continue your daily work pattern within the confines your abode.  

Due to the current situation with COVID-19, many of you may have been working from home for several weeks now.

For some people, working from home can be freeing, especially for those that get stressed in an office environment. Some benefits to WFH include avoiding that sometimes-painful commute to work, not having to venture outside into the cold, dreary and damp weather, and the ability to slide out of bed straight into your at-home office without having to shower or get dressed.

This might be the perfect solution for some employers/employees, but for some people it can be a whole different ballgame, which can affect our mental health and lead to high levels of anxiety. 

Here are some tips to make WFH easier.

Prolonged isolation of any sort can have negative effects on both our mental and psychological health. Isolation can cause depression, sleep disturbances, poor heart health and cognitive decline

The American Psychology Association (APA Oct 2019)

Recently, a work colleague of mine told me that “her home is her safe haven.

She likes to be able to leave the office, de-stress on the drive home and forget about work until she returns to the office the next day. So, working from home has been an intrusion on her haven, and therefore it has made it difficult for her to enact a healthy work/life balance

Lets look at some steps we could  take for those of us that might struggle with the concept of WFH?

Get up at your normal time and stick to a regular routine.  

Eat breakfast, shower, brush your teeth and get dressed. Even if you don’t have to work during certain hours, what really matters with remote working is sticking to and creating a normal work routine. 

Arrange a workspace only area.

Alongside creating a normal routine, you create an area that can function as your office space, which can be ‘closed’ during evenings and weekends. If you don’t have an area which can function as an office, close and store away your work computer and materials until the next working day. This way you’re not tempted to work outside of your normal hours.

Keep regular hours. 

WFH demands a different skill set and ethics. Be conscious of when you are most productive, but most importantly set a routine that works best for you.

Limit distractions. 

Setting ground rules with your nearest and dearest can be beneficial in order for you to focus on your work and minimise any interruptions. Understandably, this can be difficult with children in the mix   

One solution my colleague had was to have a rotating schedule with her partner.  One partner would work in the morning, while the other took care of the children. Then in the afternoon, they would switch. This way they both had equal time spent at work and with the kids.

Keep connected with your employer and work colleagues 

There are a whole host of communication apps available for video calls and instant messaging such as Zoom, Skype and FaceTime. By using these, this will enable you to stay in touch with your team, helping to reduce miscommunication which can occur in emails and help reduce isolation in your workplace.

Stay active, get up and move about regularly 

If you’re a morning person, you could try to exercise before work. Morning exercise can be favourable for both mental and physical health, it can also help you stay focused during the work day. 

Another idea is to exercise during your lunch break. Even if you only go for a 15 to 20-minute walk, this will help you to increase your heart rate, burn calories and give you time to relax in between work hours. 

Lastly, you could set yourself a challenge to complete throughout the work day. For instance, at the beginning of every new hour you could get up and dance for 5 minutes. This can also be a fun thing to do with your children!

Smile and laugh. 

WFH can be a lonely time and you may miss small talk with co-workers. Take time to get in touch with your colleagues and chat about things not related to work. Chatting and light hearted banter can be beneficial and good for your well-being.

Use the support that is available. 

Many employees offer assistance programmes such as over-the-phone counselling, online networking and social events, free online exercise classes and more. 

If you’re unsure what your employer is offering, contact your HR department, and they will be able to help guide you.

Deliver results  

As your employer and colleagues can’t see you working, focus on getting things done and on presenting visible results of your work. It may be beneficial for you to get in touch with your line manager once a week to tell them what you’ve been working on.

Padlock the fridge! 

This is my personal tip as I’ve found myself snacking more at home then I would at the work place

By incorporating some of these tips into your routine, WFH will not be quite as difficult and challenging  

Remember, our mental health is just as important as our physical health.  

Julie Taaffe is a S&I Nurse at Big C.

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