With social distancing set to continue for the time being, home-working is now well established as the new norm.
If you belong to the 60% of the UK population who’ve never worked from home before the pandemic, the shift in working life can be challenging.
Working remotely from your colleagues can be isolating, increase anxiety and stress, and can impact upon your mental health.
Read on for some top tips to protect your mental health, improve your productivity and prevent your anxiety levels soaring when you work from home.
Although it’s tempting to stay in your PJs all day, getting washed and dressed will psychologically prepare you for the working day and disassociate your mind from sleep and rest.
Wear what you would wear for a day in the office to prime your mind for work.
Changing out of these clothes at the end of your working day will help your brain to register work is over and prevent job-related niggles taking over your evening.
If you don’t have a chance to switch off from thinking about work-related tasks, the line between work and personal life becomes blurred.
Good advice is to stick to your usual hours of work when working from home, if domestic commitments allow. A routine can create much-needed stability in these challenging times.
Everyone’s routine will be different – arrange your working hours to coincide with your most productive times. Have a completely digital free day at least once per week.
Having an end-of work routine as well as a morning one can prime your brain to relax. Turn off your laptop and tidy away work-related papers – put them in a box out of the way. Take the dog out or chat to the children about their day. Turn off work notifications on your phone outside of your dedicated working hours.
Aim to wake up and go to bed at a regular time – this sets your circadian rhythm and helps you sleep better. Remember looking at screens in the hours before bed will impair your sleep quality and affect every aspect of your health and wellbeing.
One worry is we’ll emerge from this pandemic round–shouldered and flocking to the osteopath with back and neck pain.
Wherever you work, it’s important to set up your workstation correctly. Aim to have your screen around an arm’s length away from you. Your wrists and forearms should be straight and level with the floor. To avoid neck pain, make sure the top of the screen is at eye level so you can look directly at it.
Ideally, use an adjustable chair. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips, with your feet resting on the floor, legs uncrossed. Support your lower back – use a cushion if necessary placed in the small of your back.
Easier said than done but try to manage distractions in your home. Ideally, dedicate a specific area for work. Let other members of the household when you’ll be available for tea breaks and time with the children.
Minimise social media interruptions while working by muting notifications – social media is a time stealer. Noise cancelling headphone can be a boon if you live in a noisy household.
Get up from your desk and move around as you would in an office. Do some stretches, squats or sit-ups, pet the dog, take the washing out of the drier, step out into the garden or make a hot drink – but don’t use screen breaks to check social media.
Many people who work from home recommend using the Pomodoro technique – working for 25 minutes, followed by a five minute break. After four 25-minute bursts, take a half-hour break. This can decrease mental fatigue and mean you’re far more productive.
Just as during a working day at the office, go outside at lunchtime either into your garden or your local area. This will give you a fresh perspective on any work problems and stresses bothering you.
With the food cupboard probably only a few steps away, it’s tempting to reach for sugary treats throughout the day. Have a set time for snacks and meals as part of your daily routine, and stock up on healthy snacks such as fruit and unsalted nuts and seeds.
When you eat, do so mindfully, not while typing an email or scrolling through your phone.
There’s no shame in finding it hard to adjust to new ways of working. Be kind to yourself if you’re struggling. You may live in a crowded, noisy space, have caregiving responsibilities or financial issues. Remember it’s unlikely you will be as productive as you usually are, and it takes time to adjust to juggling a new work/life balance.
You’re living through stressful times, so don’t allow working from home to become another stressor. If you feel you’d benefit from one to one support in adopting the lifestyle and nutritional strategies to optimise your mental as well as your physical health, a Functional Medicine consultation considers you as a whole person with individual needs. Start your journey today to optimal health.
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