Three areas of mental wellbeing to nurture while working in self-isolation
As the coronavirus continues to spread, governments are urging social distancing and employers are promoting working from home. Remote working, particularly under self-quarantine and enforced isolation, poses challenges to our mental health.
Focusing on three key areas of wellbeing, these measures will help employees to proactively manage their mental health while working from home amid the coronavirus crisis.
1. Connection: support through loneliness
Humans are social beings; we’re hardwired to need community. Feelings of loneliness are normal. While many workers are familiar with occasional work from home days, extended periods of weeks or even months is another kettle of fish. Some people may find this isolation overwhelming, which can have wider consequences. Extended loneliness puts our bodies into a state of stress, and can impact our immune systems’ ability to cope.
What to do about it
It’s a misconception that loneliness arises when no one else is around – it’s more likely a lack of meaningful connection. So now is the time to reach out and support your employees. Regular meaningful communication, empathy and lashings of humour (where appropriate) are what we should aim for. Here are a few ideas for getting connected:
- Schedule in socials: book in reminders to connect with people. Work related, or not.
- Don’t just write: use your full communicative arsenal – voice calling, video, and gaming.
- Check in with others: different from a transactional ‘catch-up’, checking in should focus on how you’re feeling. Make sure you’re sharing and listening.
2. Coping: setting boundaries between life and work
While working from home, the physical boundaries between life and work are literally blurred. This is reflected in our minds too.
Enforced home working will disrupt our daily routines of getting up, commuting, doing work and then returning home. Meanwhile we may struggle with the new balancing act of managing family life with the fluctuating demands of work. Without mindful intervention, it can be easy to lose the boundaries between work and home life.
What to do about it
Avoid working in your bedroom. If employees must, then they should do so in a designated working area. It’s difficult to establish boundaries when we’re spending all of our time in the same space. Structure is essential. Two way dialogue with direct reports and setting clear expectations is really important. Agreeing what work needs to be delivered – rather than just the expectation of being present – will make us less inclined to remain glued to our screens, ensuring our instant communication availability status is green.
Encourage employees to design their day in advance, ideally remaining pretty close to how it was before COVID-19 – getting up at a set time, having breakfast, doing the commute (or using the time to read, listen to music, play Candycrush – whatever works for them) and then commence their day.
Employees shouldn’t feel the need to be online constantly – no one spends the entire eight hours at their desk in the office. Breaks will make them more productive in the long run. Similarly, shutting down at the end of the day is important – employees should avoid looking at emails, and batten down the hatches for another evening of self-isolation.
3. Calmness: managing stress and worry
An infectious outbreak is, by anyone’s measure, a stressful scenario. But dealing with the uncertainty in isolation, all while managing our daily duties at work, can lead to additional levels of stress, worry and anxiety.
When faced with a variety of pressures, we can be overcome by generalised feelings of concern, and a loss of control amid the newness. When dealing with uncertain situations, it’s more important than ever to remain calm.
What to do about it
Feelings of stress are entirely normal in these unusual circumstances – and they bear no reflection on an employee’s ability to do their job. Although it’s important to stay informed, a continuous stream of news that’s spun to tap into nervous energy isn’t always helpful.
Employees should keep up-to-date with government and public health advice, both nationally and locally. They could bookmark sources such as:
- WHO (World Health Organization)
- NHS public health advice
There’s no right or wrong. Go out for a run, read a book or do the ironing. Employees should find what works best for them.
This article is provided by Unmind.
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