Working from Home Mental Health Tips

Published by Give a Grad a Go – May 2020

Earlier this year we partnered with graduate recruitment agency, Give A Grad A Go, to share a series of videos, to help workers adjust to routines whilst working from home and adapt to the current climate.

Filmed by Charlotte Wiseman herself, coming from an evidenced based scientific background, all of the tips in the video are science-lead, practical advice. There is a download ‘hand-out’ with every video we released.

Part 1 : The Power of Routine: Working from Home Tips

It’s important that we understand that routine is fundamental when we are going through a time of change. When we have any sense of uncertainty or a change in our circumstance, we are naturally triggered into a stress response. It feels uncomfortable, which is totally normal.

When we get put into that space, we start to see the negative. We are less able to think clearly because we’re more emotional and less able to cope. By having a routine, we give ourselves a sense of stability, enabling us to think clearly, overcome problems and manage our emotions more effectively.

Download part 1 handout

It’s really important for you to think about these ideas, regardless of your current working situation, to give you a sense of purpose and support your general well-being and mood:

1. Make sure you get up at a regular time each day

When we start to get up and go to bed at the same time, the body learns that with our natural body clock so it will become easier to go to sleep and wake up. It’s also important that we don’t hit ‘snooze’. Initially when you awake, there will be a shot of cortisol into your system.

Cortisol is often associated with stress, but it’s not all about stress, it actually also energises us, so it’s a very helpful chemical and gives us that burst of energy first thing in the morning. If you hit ‘snooze’ that cortisol starts to decline, meaning that when you try to get out of bed 5-10 minutes later, you’ve got less of that energising cortisol in your bloodstream and it’s going to be harder to get out of bed.

2. Make sure you have a quarantine morning routine

This is the most vital work from home advice. Exercise, get some fresh air, practice mindfulness meditation or sit down with a cup of tea and read. Make sure you eat breakfast, get dressed and start the day as if you’re going into work. This will prime the mind to know that you are getting into action, helping your ability to focus, improving motivation & self-esteem.

If you are working, think about your work-space, what will enable you to work efficiently? Perhaps setting boundaries with the people you live with? Putting a note on the door, or having a rota as to who uses what spaces? Could you set your ironing board up to have a stand-up desk? Do you find it better to work near a window? Think about what will help you; preempting and managing any distractions, is the key here.

3. Be conscious about your goal setting

When you sit down to work, focus on setting some goals for the day. We need to have fewer, but really clear goals. So try starting with one core work or productivity goal, a couple of mini goals e.g. sending an email or following up on something, and then one personal goal everyday.

While you’re not commuting, going out in the evening or socialising externally, make sure you set yourself a personal goal, e.g. clearing out an old cupboard, learning something new or reading.

4. Take a minimum of 3 breaks throughout the day

Taking regular breaks throughout the day, is the route path to increase productivity. You need to be conscious of those breaks. If we take breaks that are unplanned and haven’t got any time-limit, what we tend to do is pick up our phone, scroll through social media, get distracted and we take longer breaks but get less benefit from them.

To make the most of your breaks, give yourself a time-space, anything between 3-20 minutes is great, and in that time allocate what you’re going to do, e.g. mindfulness meditation, listen to a specific song, call someone you need to catch up with etc. Make sure you are conscious and clear with taking those breaks, to re-fill your psychological resources and focus for the rest of the day.

5. Make sure nutrition levels are good

Not just snacking all day, drinking tea and coffee, but having 3 clear meals a day and staying hydrated. The brain is largely water and if we haven’t got the water we need in our body, then the brain’s neuro-connections can’t be effective, so drink lots of water!

6. Celebrate your success & notice what you’ve achieved

Have a marked transition into the evening, e.g. getting changed into something different, doing an activity, calling a friend, do something to mark the end of your working day.

Make sure you connect with others, complete your personal goal and focus on self-care routines (with not too much tech time!)

Part 2 : Goal Setting for Success: Working from Home Tips

Next we explore effective goal setting and how we celebrate success. Most of us are setting too many goals, and this is actually inhibiting our ability to achieve these goals.

When we set too many goals, what happens is we find it harder to focus, harder to prioritise and we also feel less sense of achievement when we actually do things.

Download part 2 handout

Part 3: High Quality Connections at Work: Working from Home Tips

Next we are talking about making high quality connections at work. We are obviously all working from home, with social distancing measures in place and so during this time, we have to maintain social interactions.

This is possible nowadays with all the different video conferencing interfaces we have. Not only do we need to be making connections at work and at home, but we also need to be making quality connections. Everyday we should be setting ourselves goals to connect with someone else.

Download part 3 handout

We recommend connecting with someone from work on a professional level and also connecting with someone on a personal level. Doing this by video calling, research shows that we have a different type of connection when we see someone face-to-face, when we can see facial expressions and body language.

Making work connections remotely is made easier with tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, but they are also great to be used out-side of work too. Someone from work, perhaps you can plan a virtual cup of tea with them or a virtual drink after work, as a really useful way to use these tools in your working from home routines.

We explore other research in this video as evidence to show that making connections at work and at home is vital for an individual’s well-being and mental health.

Part 4: Working from Home: Circles of Control Influence and Concern

In part 4 of our ‘Working from Home Tips for Success’ video, Charlotte talks about how we manage ‘over thinking’. When we go through any period of change or transition, it initially feels very uncomfortable and that’s absolutely natural.

When we go through any change, the body initially doesn’t know what’s going on, which brings our stress response up and it feels like you can’t cope. But over time, the body adapts and we get to a point where we can maintain performance.

So even though the change in environment is still as it was when we first arrived, we have adapted to manage that and we continue to thrive regardless. To get to this point of managing, what we need to do is manage our overthinking, the stress and the worry.

Download part 4 handout

The handout shows three circles of control and influence or spheres of control and influence. The outer layer represents the worries, concerns and stresses that you can control, such as your work load, the time you get up, how you structure your day.

The next layer in, is your layer of influence, which are things in your life that you can influence, but you can’t control. Very often these are your health, or the relationships in your life, so you might be able to influence your partner, friends or people you live with; but you certainly can’t control them.

Then at the center or core of the control and influence circles are the things we can’t control and at the moment we are facing a lot of these. We don’t know how long we will be on lock-down or working from home for, we don’t know what kind of changes are going to be awaiting us. There is a lot of uncertainty that we can’t control and this is what people tend to struggle with the most.

Charlotte talks about other examples and research in this circles of control video as evidence to show that mental fitness control is vital for an individual’s well-being and mental health.

Part 5: Mental Fitness Discovering Strength: Working from Home Tips for Success

In the final episode of our sequence of working from home mental health tips to take control of your time, Charlotte is talking about strengths, or more specifically mental fitness strength. Strengths research is an area that has been developed over the last 30 years, focusing on the core qualities and character traits that an individual demonstrates which enable them to live their best quality of life and add positively to their community.

This research has looked at 3000 years of scriptures for core qualities of individuals that enables them to have the best quality of life. what has been identified across different culture is that there’s a core element to them, continuous and stable across those.

Download part 5 handout

Now there are lots of different versions of what those strengths are and how we articulate it. But Charlotte has simplified for us in the handout. There are 25 strengths which are shown on the handout and these are different qualities that you might bring to something.

These are not skills or things that you’ve learnt but they are something that is inherent and you bring to what you do. So while you might be particularly good at your job, that’s the skill you’ve learnt but it’s qualities like your curiosity, trust in others or sense of team work which have allowed you to develop this skill.

What we see is that when we use our strengths, it not only enables us to perform better (up to 18x more productive) but it also enables us to be more resilient, persevere, be more adaptive and enhances our motivation through that process which then reduces our stress and supports our physical health making us less susceptible to pain and illness.

Charlotte talks about other examples and research in this mental fitness and strength video and it is clear that discovering your strength is good for wellbeing, health and relationships. Watch the whole ‘Working from Home Discovering Strength’ video to find out more about how to build on your work from home strength for productivity.

Did you find this interesting and think you might like to gain a mental health first aider qualification to become MHFA England certified? Find out more about our short mental health course below.

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