In a perfect world, working from home would give us endless opportunities to look after our mental health. But we know that the world isn’t perfect and that not everyone can work flexible hours to suit their ideal schedule and that not everyone feels confident speaking to their employer about mental health.
Over the last 2 years, there has been plenty of advice shared about how to look after your mental health when working from home, but how much have you really been able to implement? We’ve collated the best techniques that anyone can implement, no matter what resources you have or what industry you work in.
1. Set a routine when working from home
Setting a routine for your workday can help you to practice good habits and establish boundaries between work and home life.
For some, your routine may incorporate scheduled exercise, daily walks and time to complete errands around the house alongside your work. For others, it can be as simple has having a clearly defined time to start work and time to finish.
The key to any good WFH routine for your mental health is that it works for you and is something you can stick to long term. If you’re unsure, start with routine that includes minimal tasks and build on it as you get more used to it.
A routine like this can really help your mental health when working from home as it will help you create clear boundaries for yourself, your employer, and members of your household to have set times when work or personal tasks can be completed – leaving you free to fully switch off from work in the evenings and to minimise home distractions during the day.
Struggling to finish on time when working from home? Ask yourself “would I stay to complete this task if I was working in the office?” If not, it’s time to switch off!
Need help getting your routine started? Save ours to your phone!
2. Spend time outdoors
Whether it’s 5 minutes or 1 hour, time outdoors can significantly benefit your mental health when working from home. Not only can this time outside give us a much-needed break from our work (and the screen you’ve likely been staring at for hours), being outside also triggers several physical responses in our body that are great for our mental health. For example:
- Green outdoor spaces can improve focus and memory
- Natural light regulates our circadian rhythm and contributes to better sleep
- Natural light also stimulates serotonin and Vitamin D – both of which make us feel happier
- Being outdoors can lower cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure
Much of the time you spend outside will likely be on foot – meaning that you’ll be getting some physical activity in which is also great for mental health.
There are lots of different ways you can spend time outdoors, whether it’s in your garden, on your balcony or in the street outside your home:
- Go for a walk during your lunch break
- Simulate your commute by walking before and/or after work every day (also a great way to set clear boundaries in your mind!)
- Take a 5 minute break outside in between tasks
- Go outside every time the kettle is boiling
3. Create a dedicated workspace
To look after your mental health when working from home, you need the ability to switch off from work and stop the lines between your work and personal time getting too blurred.
A dedicated workspace for working from home is one of the best things you can do to create clear boundaries for your mind and look after your mental health. Not everyone has the ability to set up an office in another room – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still create a dedicated space where you can focus during the day and “leave” when it’s time to finish.
Try to avoid working from the sofa or your bed – these are spaces where you’d normally relax so reserve them for this purpose only! If you have to work from a room that you’d usually consider a relaxing space, try to set up a desk that is only for work purposes. You could even use a folding table and chair if you don’t have room for a permanent set up.
If you work from your kitchen table or another permanent fixture in your house, make the effort to clear your work equipment away at the end of every day. This will help you avoid the temptation to check your emails or do a quick task out of your normal working hours.
If you’re lucky enough to have a home office, try closing the door when you finished working so that, similarly to those working from kitchen tables, you can’t be tempted to work when you catch a glimpse of your to-do list or computer.
4. Talk to people
Talking is one of the best things you can do for your mental health, even when you’re not working from home.
Regardless of the subject, talking to people helps us feel connected, build relationships and voice our feelings. Working from home can often leave you feeling isolated and lonely which can intensify feelings of anxiety, depression, and low mood.
Talk to colleagues
Even when working remotely, make the effort to talk to your colleagues via voice or video call. You can talk to them about work and personal life – they may even be able to support you with challenges you’re facing if they’re in a similar position.
Read more: What is workplace anxiety?
Talk to your Mental Health First Aider
Your workplace Mental Health First Aider is the best person to go to when you’re feeling low at work. They can provide advice, signpost to professional resources and help you make adjustments at work to accommodate how you’re feeling.
Don’t have a mental health first aider? Get trained in Mental Health First Aid.
Talk to loved ones
Talking to loved ones after work on a regular basis is a great way to unwind and gain perspective. They’ll likely be supportive if you want to share anything that’s bothering you and can help to distract you with stories from their own lives.
5. Stay healthy and hydrated
Keeping your body fed and hydrated will help you stay focused, motivated and mentally positive when working from home. Keep a water bottle at your desk so that you can keep drinking even when engrossed in the busiest tasks and try to keep healthy snacks on hand (e.g. fruit and nuts) for when you don’t feel like you have time for a proper lunch.
If you regularly don’t have the time or inclination to prepare meals during the day, meal prepping in advance can be a great way to ensure you get a balanced and filling meal without spending too long away from your desk.
Working from home has become normal for many of us, yet despite this there are plenty of us who still struggle to look after our mental health in these conditions. You can use these tips when working from home no matter your resources or work schedule.