Working from home: seven tips for good mental health

9 October 2020

The NHS has shared seven simple tips for taking care of mental health while working from home (WFH) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are perks to WFH that some workers will enjoy — a pause on long commutes for one thing — but stress, boredom, anxiety and uncertainty are also completely normal according to the NHS. Alongside this, many workers will be worried about future job prospects and also trying to look after or home school children in the event of local lockdowns or family self-isolation periods.

The NHS says some simple steps can help staff feel more productive and take care of their mental health when WFH.

  1. Set and stick to a routine: follow normal sleep and work patterns if possible and stay consistent. Blurring lines between work and personal time can increase stress.

  2. If possible, make a dedicated workspace: it might be tempting to sit on the sofa but sitting on a chair at a desk or table is much better for back health which can affect mental health. If you don’t have an adjustable office chair at home, try using things like cushions to support the back or a box as a footrest.

  3. Take regular breaks: even just 5 to 10 minutes of short breaks each hour can really help stress levels (and productivity, too). Go for a walk, run or bike ride for some fresh air, or have a coffee. Work some light stretching or exercise into your day as well.

  4. Stay connected: while WFH has its benefits, staff may also feel more isolated. Keep communication channels open. Managers need to be aware of the value of scheduling video calls and picking up the phone instead of always emailing.

  5. Set boundaries: setting boundaries with other members of your household is key to mental wellbeing while working at home. Talk to your family about your needs and schedule. Similarly, set boundaries with work. Try to switch off when the work day is over, and enjoy time with family at home.

  6. Think longer term: if you are going to be WFH for a while, consider ways to improve your working day. For example, are there different ways to talk online or new software you could use?

  7. Be kind to yourself: this is an unusual time and things will not feel normal so be kind to yourself and realistic about what you can achieve given the circumstances. Try to relax when your work is done.

Following the Prime Minister’s September 2020 instruction for people to WFH where they can, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said, “With homeworking likely to be the default for many for another six months, employers must recognise that isolation and anxiety could become an issue for some of their workers. To counter this, they should ensure managers are regularly checking in with their teams, are asking about their wellbeing and signposting to support services where necessary”.