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Opportunities and Challenges when working from home

How can we find calm and reduce stress levels during the present pandemic? There is so much advice circulating about our well-being and health. Many of us are now working from home, and although we can joke about keeping on our pyjamas, the reality is that it can be a challenge.

Working from home can require considerable self-control and kindness. Whereas our ‘normal’ work environments – offices, factories, shops – are set up to effectively engage in work, for many employees, home environments are not. There are so many potential distractions:

· time for a cup of coffee

· check the news

· get side-tracked into a web search

· take an extra break in the sunshine

· pets, children, partners,….

Overcoming these demands and engaging in work requires self-control, which in turn depletes our mental energy levels. Of course it can also be refreshing…. no time lost commuting, no unnecessary time lost chatting, a little longer in bed, more time with loved ones, actually taking the breaks you deserve and so on.

However there is the issue of detachment. We need a ‘switching-off’ period between ending work and getting home. A period when we can cut back on work-related thoughts and activities. While the simple act of leaving the office after work immediately helps detachment, this clearly becomes much more difficult when working from home. So it is vitally important to manage these boundaries. Evidence suggests that home workers put more time into their work, often with higher efficiency than if they were at their regular workplace!

So here are our top ten tips on how to maintain positive mental health and well-being:

· set up a dedicated workspace, which should be as free from distractions as possible

· develop a schedule, which clearly allows for focussed work as well as regular breaks

· set up dedicated time for child and pet care

· establish a workflow timetable for email communications

· establish simple routines that don’t require any self-control, such as a coffee break or starting your working day with an easy routine task

· set up dedicated times for work and leisure and stick to these times

· if possible, work in a different room than the one you spend your leisure time, particularly avoid working in your bedroom as it may remind you of work-related issues, preventing detachment when you go to sleep

· do not perform any work-related communication during your non-work time

· value your non-work time, by engaging in absorbing activities, that capture your full attention after work, such as exercise, cooking, mindfulness meditation, or focused playing with your children or pets

· and finally, don’t be too hard on yourself, remember the positives

So remember the need to engage in ‘recovery experiences’ such as detachment to maintain and enhance your mental health and wellbeing.

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