All of us have been dealing with lifestyle changes in the last few weeks, since the national social distancing measures have been brought in. Many of our colleagues in the NHS have continued to travel to clinical work every day to face the frontline of the battle against the Covid-19 virus, along with other key workers who continue to keep essential services running during this difficult time, and for this we are all extremely grateful. For the rest of us, remaining at home is the most effective action we can take in order to support the national effort and protect ourselves, friends, family, colleagues, and fellow citizens. Psychologically that can be difficult, leading to feelings of helplessness and guilt.
Many people, including myself and the team at Maudsley Learning, have been forced into a sudden change in working life, by packing up essentials from the office and setting up shop at home. Many have noticed some positives about this new way of working, for example avoiding a lengthy or stressful commute, avoiding distractions associated with an open plan office, seeing more of the family at home or having a more flexible schedule. However, most will quickly have identified challenges, which will be unique to everyone’s individual situation, and depend on aspects such as personality, home environment, and type of work.
Maudsley Learning have developed a short video which offers some general tips and advice for maximising your well-being and productivity whilst working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you find it easier, the main points have also been summarised below, and we have collated a selection of resources which you may find useful.
- Healthy behaviours and managing your well-being
Taking time to look after your physical health is important at the moment, and can have a significant positive impact on your overall well-being.
- Stick to normal mealtimes and watch your diet; keep a supply of healthy snacks, and moderate your caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day as well, as dehydration can impact on your concentration and mood.
- Spend short periods outdoors, and add some physical activity into your daily routine.
- Take the opportunity to cut down on smoking. Watch out for increased smoking due to boredom or lack of constraints.
- Beware of changes to your sleep pattern, and think about good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding using screens in the bedroom, and keeping a regular bedtime.
- The association of UK dieticians nutrition advice during Covid outbreak
- Maudsley Learning sleep hygiene blog – COMING SOON!
- Mindfulness podcast
- Free access to well-being apps
- Desk yoga
- Managing stress and managing your time
It’s important to be disciplined about time management when working from home. It can be hard to switch off and relax at the end of the day due to the lack of physical distancing from the work environment, and so sticking to a structure can help improve your overall sense of accomplishment and stress levels.
- Establish a clear morning routine. Include simple things such as getting showered and dressed before starting work. You might want to use the extra time (with no commute) to add in extras such as a walk or run.
- Be clear about your working hours, communicate these with those you live with, and stick to them.
- Choose working hours that suit you e.g. start early if you are a morning person.
- You could set boundaries with work colleagues, for explaining you will not respond to emails after 4pm.
- Avoid working late or at the weekends, and limit e-mail checking outside of your working day, so that you have some designated time to “switch off”.
- Schedule regular breaks, and consider using these for relaxing activities, such as exercise, mindfulness, or catching up with family. Taking regular breaks will help maintain your focus and increase your productivity.
- If you have children in the home, set rules about when they can disturb you, or set up a quiet work space for them in the same room.
- Don’t forget to book in time for a relaxing activity at the end of each day.
- Take a look at our blog How to look after your children’s well-being during self-isolation (link).
- Article about the benefits of breaks
- NHS time management tips
- Blog about time management
- Managing stress
- Creating a workspace
Creating a defined work station can help maintain boundaries and create a separation between work and leisure space.
- Avoid working in the bedroom, as this can impact on quality of sleep.
- If possible, work at a designated desk, and sit on the most supportive chair you have access to, in order to minimise the risk of backpain or other problems.
- Choose an area with natural light, away from distractions, with a view of outdoor space or greenery if you can.
- Ideally use a desktop monitor, a mouse and a keyboard, but a quick-fix is to raise the height of a laptop to eye level using a stand or even a pile of books.
- Clear away your work things at the end of the day so they are out of sight, to signal work time has ended.
- Try make a stand–up desk so that you can switch between standing and sitting throughout the day.
- Working as a team
It is common to feel isolated when working from home, but this can be improved by maintaining good communication with your whole team.
- Hold a daily virtual team meeting, using online video conferencing. This can support team members to feel engaged and focused with their work.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to your team to ask for help when you need it, as you normally would in an office.
- Check in with colleagues who you think may need extra support, for example if they have pre-existing health conditions, you see a decline in their mental well-being, they live alone or are self-isolating.
- Create space for the team to socialise, such as using time at the start or end of a virtual meeting to have informal catch-ups. Additionally you could organise a virtual team lunch or hold virtual social events outside of work hours.
- University of Dundee tips for holding online meetings
- Zoom free video conferencing
- Microsoft Teams (need subscription)
- Article of managing loneliness during social isolation
- Mind guide to supporting colleagues
- Keeping focused
One of the biggest challenges when working from home is to remain focused, as there are often distractions around, and there are no colleagues to check up on you!
- Write a daily to-do list and share deadlines with a supervisor.
- Keep your phone away from your workstation, keep activities such as checking the news to break time, or use a website blocker to avoid social media.
- Consider assigning time for chores, either before or after the work day.
- NHS 5 steps to well-being
- NHS well-being whilst staying at home
- Site developed by staff at UCL and includes various self-help guides for coping with coronavirus
- Online event Maintaining health and well-being during the covid-19 pandemic from the Institute of psychiatry, psychology and neuroscience (IoPPN) / Kings College London can be viewed online
- List of useful national resources on mental health during covid-19 ML-list of resources
- Seeking support for mental and physical health video
- Managing expectations and pressure as healthcare workers video
We hope that these ideas have been helpful. It’s possible that the current restrictions may be in place for many more weeks (or months) and so it’s worthwhile implementing some of these strategies early on, in order to make the most of this unusual period of our lives.