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How to work from home and stay mentally healthy

By David Price, workplace wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured

It can’t have escaped your notice that more and more businesses are shifting to remote working right now, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. For many, this is a sudden change and one borne out of immediate necessity. How can you make sure people are keeping on top of their mental health in such a time?

There are, after all, plenty of negatives to working from home. Sometimes it becomes difficult to separate your work life from your home life, especially when they both take place in the same area. It can get a bit lonely, without the commute and your co-workers around you. And you might find yourself becoming far less active—especially for the conscientious among you who walk or cycle every morning.

But, of course, there are positive among the gloom. Remote workers are often more productive, more engaged (with lower levels of absenteeism) and more loyal—in fact, 54% of quizzed workers say they would change jobs for one which offered more flexibility.

So, what can you do to keep yourself sane and healthy if you’re sent home to work at short notice?

  • Draw a line between work and home: more straightforward than it sounds. Make sure you have a dedicated area where you do work, and nothing else even if it’s just a corner of a kitchen table. Treat this as your office for now, and take regular breaks.
  • Stick to your hours: it can be tempting to set Slack to busy and start work a little later—or to keep burning through your tasks throughout the evening. This is counterproductive—best practice dictates that you ought to keep to your regular hours. No-one is expecting you to work more (or less!) while you’re at home.
  • Keep yourself positive: take advantage of being at home to set the mood. You don’t even have to wear pants if you don’t want to (but you probably should!) Make that nice coffee you keep as a treat, listen to the music no-one else in the office likes, burn some incense and keep the thermostat at the perfect temperature.

If you’re an employer who is unused to remote work, it can feel a little daunting letting your people off the leash. Here are a few ways to support and care for your employees:

  • Communicate: stay in touch and talk regularly. Check-in at least once every hour—not in a snooping or invasive way, literally ask how people are doing, and if you can help.
  • Set up a Slack or Discord channel, use Microsoft Teams or even get a WhatsApp group together so everyone can stay I touch in real-time.
  • Encourage people to work within the hours they should. If you see someone online beavering away at 7 pm, make sure they understand that they’re not expected to.
  • Reward and reassure people—make sure they know that they’re just as valued wherever they might be.