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2 September 2020

Mental Health and Working From Home

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If you’ve been adapting to working from home, you shouldn’t overlook your mental health. Without your usual commute and your normal office environment, adjusting to working from home can prove difficult. Working from home can have an adverse effect even on people with normally good mental health. As we move increasingly to remote ways of working, taking steps to help your mental health when working from home long-term are important – if you take the time to look after your brain, there is less chance that your work and productivity will be negatively affected by the circumstances.

We here at Brightside Home Insurance for Business Use have compiled this list of tips and advice for working at home wellbeing, from focusing on work to managing anxiety.

How to Stay Focused When Working From Home

Without the familiar comforts of being surrounded by colleagues or a regular office schedule, it can be easy to find yourself getting distracted from work while at home or slip into a rut of unproductiveness. Here are some tips on how to focus while working from home.

Ensure your day has structure

Don’t fall into the trap thinking that just because you’re at home on a workday, you don’t have a schedule to keep to. Shape a plan to your working day and do your best to stick to it. An example list of things you can do to structure your workday include:

  1. Start work early – Without a morning commute to help wake you up, it can be jarring to begin the workday at home. Dive into your daily work tasks as soon as you wake up. Even if you only get a project started, just overcoming that first hurdle early can help to avoid morning sluggishness setting in and motivation sapping away while you eat your breakfast.
  2. Get dressed and ready as if you were going to work in an office environment – Although it may be tempting to work from your bed, putting clothes on and getting ready for the day by smartening yourself up can help your brain adjust to the fact that you need to get to work.
  3. Set yourself a designated work space - Designating a distraction-free area of your house to work in is key to helping your brain to narrow in and focus on the tasks at hand for the day. Sitting up properly at a table or desk will get your brain into work mode much more effectively than if you were to lounge in bed with your laptop. Outside of work time, work on enhancing your home work area's decor to lift your mood and boost your mental health further.
  4. Schedule your day like you would in an office - Without in-person meetings to break up your day, it can be hard to keep focused. Lay out what tasks you're going to complete and when you'll do them. Even if they are small tasks, they can help to keep your productivity momentum going.
  5. Make it harder for yourself to get distracted by social media or other notifications – Though social media can become a time sink if you aren’t careful. If you aren’t using them for work, add social media sites to a block list so you can’t be tempted. Try placing your phone in a drawer or even another room in your house to lessen the temptation to absent-mindedly pick it up and start scrolling. Similarly, turn off email alerts and work chat notifications off while you knuckle down. Getting a notification for an irrelevant email or group chat message can quickly spoil your flow and it can be hard to recover this when broken.
  6. Make sure to take regular breaks – Break up long stretches of work with short breaks. Even if those breaks are just to get some quick exercise, grab a snack or let the dog out, keeping your brain stimulated in this fashion will help to avoid burnout and ultimately keep you productive for longer during the workday.
  7. Separate yourself fully from your workspace when the work day is over – Keeping your work and home life separate is not only possible when working from home, it’s recommended. Leaving your workspace at the end of the day and not returning to it until the next morning will allow your brain to recharge. Plus, you will continue to associate the rest of your home with rest and relaxation. In turn, this should hopefully lead to less stress outside of work hours and a better night’s sleep.
  8. Pack away completely when in smaller accommodation and simulate a commute home – If you live in smaller accommodation and are less able to fully separate your workspace from your leisure space at home, ensure that all work items are fully packed away out of sight at the end of the day. Going out for a quick walk afterwards to psychologically simulate a commute home can also help to both mentally and physically separate a limited home space from work.

Managing Anxiety Working From Home

It can be easier than expected to succumb to anxiety while working from home, especially if you don’t – or can’t – afford yourself much time outside of your house. Here are some of our top tips for combating anxiety working from home.

Use technology to stay connected to your colleagues

In the absence of face-to-face contact with colleagues, it can be easy to feel isolated and anxious. When you have a few minutes between tasks where you don’t have to concentrate as much, take a moment to check in with your colleagues through instant messaging or conference tools. See how they’re getting on, update them on how you’re doing or just to shoot the breeze. Doing this for a few minutes will help to remind your brain that you are not alone and can help to ease associated anxieties. Just be mindful not to let a chat snowball into a full-blown distraction from work!

Utilise available mental health support

If you find yourself struggling to stave off anxieties associated with working from home alone, many employers will offer support and/or adjust expectations with regards to your mental health. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a manager or HR representative. If you are struggling with your mental health to the extent that it is affecting your work, assistance in the form of support programs will likely be available if requested through the correct channels. No one person is an island, and this should be remembered when working from home. If you are a freelancer or self-employed, reach out for support from members of your household and/or a mental healthcare professional, available through the NHS as well as privately.

Practice mental self-care techniques

In your breaks, try to refocus your brain with simple mindfulness exercises. Meditation in a quiet space can prove beneficial for many people in calming their nerves. Focus on deep breaths and long exhalations. There are lots of techniques to experiment with such as visualisations, body scans, and mantras to name but a few. Experiment and see which ones work best for you. Though these techniques can be tricky at first if you aren’t used to them, regular practice makes them easier over time and can bring significant benefits for your mental health.

Hopefully these tips have proven useful in helping you to manage your mental health working from home to increase your focus and productivity. For further tips on working from home, check out our Home Office Inspiration guide for advice on how to spruce up your work area.

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