Today is also known as Blue Monday, which is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. And this year it is compounded by the fact we’re in yet another national lockdown, on the continuing ‘Coronacoaster’.
Even the most resilient, positive and stoic among us are finding our reserves are running low. While finding motivation can seem hard, looking after your mental health has never been more important.
Too much screen time, a lack of boundaries between work and home, and never-ending video calls are just a few of the challenges we’re facing as we all try to juggle working from home, home schooling and family life.
Our team have come up with a few simple things that they find useful in helping to achieve a better balance. Small steps, that may make a world of difference.
#1 Set up a dedicated workspace (away from distraction)
Use your workspace to help you enforce good boundaries. Even if your desk is in your kitchen or bedroom, make it feel like a workspace.
- Make sure you and your team have a comfortable chair and desk with good lighting.
- Ideally, set up your workspace behind a closed door to help avoid too much distraction.
- A top tip from our home working parents is to create a traffic light sign for the door (Red: Don’t disturb; Amber: Knock before coming in; Green: come on in).
#2 Create a routine (and stick to it)
As much as we hated our commutes, they were a ritual that created a boundary between work and home. And we all need that. Without structure or routine, you may not be able to find focus. Or you may end up working too hard and hit burn out. Creating a routine and a structure to your day provides a sense of predictability and purpose.
- Set a consistent time for getting up. With so many demands on our time and energy, getting up earlier may give you a better chance of easing into the day rather than stumbling into it.
- Schedule your time for when you’re ready to be ‘on’ and available for video calls, meetings and collaboration. Minimise the length of calls and meetings and have a clear agenda so calls don’t drag on for too long.
- Take regular breaks to keep you energised and focused. It could be listening to music, going for a walk, breathing exercises, fitness or a call with a friend. Downtime throughout the day will help improve your focus and productivity.
- Know when to stop working at the end of each day. That’s possibly the most important boundary to keep between home and work life.
- Good quality sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and screens within an hour of going to bed. It helps ease the transition to sleep.
#3 Conserve your energy
Being in lockdown and feeling detached from our normal life is emotionally draining. A way to protect your wellbeing is to manage the interaction that you have with others.
- Minimise the time you spend talking to people that tax your energy. Instead focus on staying connected to those that re-charge you.
- Limit your time on video calls. Video calls are exhausting. They demand us to perform to camera, and there are none of the nuances you get from being in the same room. Staring at disembodied heads on a screen, offers only a pale imitation of the human connection we all need. So, limit the number of video calls you have each day.
- Build in some alone time away from others, even from your children! It’s essential to help you find time to check in with yourself and avoid burn-out. The advice given on an airline to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others applies here too!
- Limit your social media time and consumption of news. Make sure you get your updates from reputable sources. Everyone will have an opinion, but don’t allow those to overwhelm you.
Whatever challenge you’re facing, it’s important to talk it through with someone you trust. There is no shame in speaking up when you’re finding things tough. In fact, it’s essential that you do.
- Imagine your friend is going through a difficult time and what your advice would be to them. We’re often kinder to others than we are to ourselves. This is the time to take your own advice.
- Talk to your manager to discuss ways in which your work can be managed to alleviate any pressure. Often others will be feeling the same as you.
- Check-in with your friends and colleagues. They’ll more often than not be experiencing similar issues. The saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” does tend to have some truth to it.
- Do things for other people. Whether that is shopping for an elderly neighbour or calling an isolated family member, doing things which build up self-worth work wonders for your wellbeing.
Looking after your team
If you’re a manager or business owner, you have an important role to play to help your team members protect their wellbeing whilst they work from home. For the team at Square Mile, we’ve implemented a few things which we find are helping us all keep on track. And when we stumble, help us get back on our feet again.
- Daily and weekly check in calls with managers
- Team mates checking in on each other
- Weekly virtual team social get-togethers
- Flexible working hours to enable team members to work around their family life and other commitments
- Ergonomic chairs and desks, with full IT support and a working from home allowance
- Membership to Perkbox which provides access to Health Assured, including: Up to four free structured counselling sessions, 24/7 confidential helpline, critical incident and trauma support, online health portal with a comprehensive wellbeing library, monthly newsletters and webinars filled with helpful advice
Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 people in the UK struggled with their mental health. Now it is more likely to be 1 in 3. We all have a role to play in protecting our wellbeing and taking responsibility for our own mental health and making it a priority is the best place to start.
Remember, if something is troubling you, contact Mind – you don’t need to go through it alone. And if you have any business worries that we can help you with, please reach out. We’re here to support you in any way we can.
Interested in joining us?
If you’re interested in joining a team where you’re proactively supported and where wellbeing is core to how we work, pop onto our careers page to check out our current vacancies.