For some people, working from home full-time has become second nature. For those of us who are newcomers to it as a result of lockdown measures, it requires significant adjustment.
Many of us have had to make a rapid transition to working from home without any certainty on when the lockdown will end.
And while having a job that’s compatible with working from home is something to be grateful for during this time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, it is also important to acknowledge that for many people it represents a significant shift in the way we are accustomed to living and working; one that has the potential to take a toll on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Working from home means the usual boundaries between work and home are more easily blurred, which has the potential to exacerbate stress and feelings of being overwhelmed many of us are already experiencing.
That’s why taking proactive steps to take good care of your wellbeing as you transition to, and continue, working from home is essential.
Below are our top tips and suggestions for establishing healthy habits that will assist you maximise your effectiveness at work while also supporting your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing:
If possible, set yourself up in a room or space dedicated solely to work.
By working there consistently, your brain will associate focused work with that place.
Similarly, it’s important to protect non-work spaces in your home. Doing so will help you create and maintain clear boundaries between work and home, enabling you switch between the two more easily.
Think about your objectives for your working day ahead of time and write them down. This can help you plan out your day and prioritise the tasks that are most important.
You could set these goals at the end of your work day for the following day, or at the beginning of your work day.
Planning your work day can provide structure to your day as well as a sense of accomplishment as you complete key tasks.
Creating space in your day to regularly pause and re-connect with the present moment, no matter how briefly, can help you reset and refocus.
Doing so will only take a minute or so but done regularly can help you reduce stress, access more clarity and increase productivity. (The hardest part is remembering to do it!)
Try the following ‘mini mindfulness’ practices, with the aim of performing one at least once per hour of your work day:
Tuning into the physical sensations in your body is a great way to connect with the present moment and release stress.
Try this brief body scan meditation now.
First, push your chair away from your desk and feel your feet against the floor.
Then, as you breathe in count ‘seven’ silently in your mind and, as you breathe out, gently hold your scalp and forehead in your awareness; as you breathe in, count ‘six’ and as you breathe out again, gently shift your awareness down to your face and lower part of your head; and so on as described below.
This exercise can help you feel calmer by encouraging you to come back to the present moment.
To start, close your eyes and take a few long, slow, deep breaths. Then open your eyes and look around. Name, silently in your mind, five things that you can see; notice four things that you can touch (like the chair, your clothes); three things that you can hear; two things that you can smell and one thing that you can taste (perhaps the taste in your mouth even if you’re not eating).
For many people the commute to and from work functions as an important time of transition between home and work. When working from home, finding alternative ways of transitioning is particularly important as it’s all too easy to drift though the work day, distracted by various aspects of being at home, and then feel the need to continue working into the evening.
It can be helpful to have a morning routine to help you transition into your work day.
For example, getting out of your pyjamas, having breakfast away from your desk, getting dressed for work, perhaps going for a walk (‘walking to work’) or meditating before sitting down at your desk and starting to work.
End of day activities could include planning key tasks for the following day, closing down all office devices, going for another walk (‘walking home’) or doing a meditation.
For guided meditations that are fit for these purposes, you could try the ‘Starting Your Day’ and ‘Work Wind Down’ meditations from the ‘Workplace’ program in the Smiling Mind App.
If you’re used to working in a busy workplace, then working from home is likely to cause feelings of being socially disconnected, and this is completely normal.
While formal meetings will continue online, it’s likely that you’ll miss the casual social interactions and small talk with your colleagues.
But this means staying connected to others is more important than ever.
As humans, we’re wired to connect, to seek comfort and care from others.
We’re fortunate to have so much technology at our fingertips enabling us to stay connected to family, friends and colleagues. But are we using them to the best of our abilities?
Consider creative ways of staying connected. Why not schedule your morning coffee break, or after-work drinks over video chat with your colleagues?
Moving your body during the day and eating well is essential to maintaining your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
This can be done by pausing to stretch once an hour, going for a walk during a break, eating lunch outside, keeping hydrated and fuelling your body with fresh, nutritious food.
Sleep is also extremely important for mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, so establishing good habits around sleep is something you might want to consider prioritising at the moment.
You could create a pre-sleep routine by turning off news and screens at least an hour before going to bed.
If you wake during the night and find you can’t sleep, rather than sit lay there and worry, try a meditation from the ‘Sleep’ program in the Smiling Mind App.
For more brain breaks and practical tools, visit Smiling Mind’s COVID-19 support page.