In the wake of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, workplaces across the globe grapple with continuing to operate their businesses under new conditions: working from home and remote work. For many employees this will be a completely novel experience, whilst for others this may simply be a more permanent fixture of an existing flexible work arrangement. As our usual office becomes a home office during self-isolation and lockdowns, our mental health can be negatively impacted along with our mood, motivation and emotional wellbeing.
Adjusting and accepting the situation of the global pandemic be a stressful period marked with higher anxiety levels. The long terms effects of being confined to our homes can also take a toll on our mental health with new challenges of working from home during Coronavirus. We’ve put together some advice and tips to take care of your mental health and your employees’ mental health during these uncertain times.
Limit Coronavirus News Updates
The barrage of breaking news during Coronavirus might be a 24/7 news cycle, but it doesn’t mean you should be tuned in constantly on your phone, television or social media accounts. Turn off any notifications you might have set up, including alerts and even disarming email subscriptions to news outlets. Whilst it’s important to keep abreast of major updates, particularly government announcements, constantly checking for updates around Covid-19 can negatively impact your mental health. To really help in lowering anxiety levels during these difficult times, keep to a minimum of tuning into the news once or twice a day at the most. Whilst as humans we instinctively want to know the latest information, it is not necessary to be constantly immersed in the news. Check the news on Coronavirus once or twice throughout your day at designated times and then click off those articles, switch off the telly or close your news app.
Keep Your Home Office conducive to work
It’s somewhat of a no-brainer but we can’t stress enough how important your immediate environment can have on your mental health. It has an enormous effect on your work habits, mood and emotional well-being. Whilst your home may become a makeshift office ensure that it is at least set up for you to work productively and sustainably. This means some very basic ground rules for working from home: no working from the comfort of your sofa or bed. Have a table and chair to work from, designate a section of your home environment as your work zone. If it’s your dining room table - that’s okay. Most importantly, ensure that there is enough natural light in the room and that on the minimum, you’re not working from any soft surfaces and you’re sitting upright whilst working. These small tips will benefit your productivity and focus but will also ensure that you are supporting your mental health whilst working from home during Covid-19.
Establish Your Daily Routine
Although you’re not commuting to work or in the hustle and bustle of an office, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect your daily routine. Establishing a working from home routine during Coronavirus can benefit your mental health with a new sense of normality and purpose, keeping depression and anxiety at bay. For example, aim to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time each day. As soon as you arise for the day – make your bed, jump into the shower, change out of your pyjamas and dress for work (comfortable casual clothes are fine). If a morning coffee pit stop isn’t possible, make your own at home with instant or a cup of of tea, eat a decent breakfast and most importantly set boundaries for work and play for your day ahead. When the day is done, shut down your laptop and relax. Have the time to decompress with activities you enjoy.
Schedule in Fun Activities & Physical Exercise
In times of uncertainty, enjoyable activities, hobbies and physical exercise should be central to taking care of your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Your daily routine should have a healthy chunk of time for fun and exercise. Get the blood pumping around your body even if it’s a brisk daily neighbourhood walk or around the block. Keep in mind that if you’re working from home during Covid-19 lockdown or self-isolation, your incidental exercise and steps will be much less than normal. If you can, try your best to get in some form of exercise from walking the dog to exercises that can be done in your living room e.g. yoga. Plan fun activities or hobbies to do as a part of your daily routine, going hand in hand with working from home. Perhaps now is the time to dust off that restoration project you’ve been putting off or tending to the backyard veggie patch. Challenge yourself to start a new hobby from reading a book, learning to play the harmonica, listening to podcasts or even cooking or baking a recipe you haven’t tried before. Whatever activity you choose, make sure you are planning each day with a ‘for fun’ activity that will either keep your body or mind active.
Keep in Contact with Others
No one will tell you this but working from home, particularly if you are self-isolated during Covid-19 can be lonely. Even if we are keeping busy, plugging along with our work or pottering around the house with domestic tasks, a lack of social interaction or feeling disconnected to others can certainly affect our mental health. To combat this, aim to have at least one face to face interaction with another person, each day. Staying connected with others with daily interactions and checking in can help us cope emotionally and alleviate the onset of depression and anxiety. This could mean having a teleconference with employees & colleagues at the start of the day to plan out priorities and to catch up on what everyone is working on. There are several technology solutions and tools to keep your team connected including Servcorp’s Virtual Office Services, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet. Regularly communicate or message colleagues throughout the day to check in and to let them know that you are there supporting them.
To keep your personal support network strong during the Coronavirus pandemic, talk to your friends, family, neighbours and loved ones whether you are emailing, calling, texting or video conferencing. Share how you have been coping during this time and what you are doing, ask how they are feeling about the situation and practise empathy and compassion through listening.
Remember that Covid-19 is a developing and novel situation. For many of us it means that we are facing long stretches of time at home, whilst keeping safe physically, our mental health can really erode if we let it. Be kind to yourself and others, acknowledging that some days will be tougher than others, but we can all still contribute positively to our own mental health by sticking to daily routines, physical activity and fun activities and staying connected with others.
Further Support During Covid-19
If you need additional support or someone to talk to during the Coronavirus pandemic, there are a number of resources available:
• Lifeline – Call the Lifeline Crisis Line 13 11 14 or text 0477 13 11 14 (6pm-Midnight AEST)
• Beyond Blue - Call 1800 512 348 for 24/7 phone counselling during the corona viruspandemic
• Kids Helpline – Call 1800 55 1800 for 24/7 counselling for young people aged 5-25.