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Keep calm and work from home

I started writing this blog post a few weeks ago, in a moment of reflection at how our mental health and wellbeing had been made a priority in the workplace over the past year. Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak it is more important than ever to look after your mental health.

We are fortunate that in our industry we can (and do) work remotely with minimal impact to our work schedule. But this sudden shift to working from home (WFH) can feel strange to those who haven’t been actively working in this way.

Here are some things to think about, implement and be mindful of, that should help ease the transition and find those small joys in this strange and unfamiliar situation we find ourselves in.

 

Keep your routine

Make time for work, family and rest. Set a routine, and respect it.

Treat WFH as if you were going to work as normal. Follow your usual routine; walk the dog, make the kids breakfast (probably important either way!), shower and get dressed properly.

Set your start time and keep this consistent, if you maintain your regular work routine, you’ll probably gain an extra half hour in bed anyway – small joy number one!

Create a workspace, and keep this separate to family space. It’s important to create that divide, you’ll thank yourself later when switching off the laptop helps your mind do the same thing.

Make sure you have time away from your workspace for lunch. If you would usually prepare your lunch the night before, keep doing that.

Wrap up your work at the same (or similar) time each day. This not only helps your routine but helps those around you to understand when you’re ‘home’. I set up my workspace every morning and pack it away at night. This might sound like a bit of hassle but if you don’t have the luxury of a home office, it helps you to switch off and enjoy your home as you usually would in the evenings. Or if that’s too much, perhaps just try packing it away for the weekend?

 

Get comfortable

Pick a comfortable location (that isn’t the sofa) to work from. It’s amazing how, what can be a comfy place for relaxing, can become a very uncomfortable place for working. Think about your desk set-up and get the equipment you need.

Laptops may have helped pave the way for remote working, but they’re not practical for prolonged usage. Try to raise your laptop (even if it’s by using books) and use a keyboard and mouse so that you put less strain on your neck and back.

For the same reasons, make sure your chair is set up correctly. I’ve seen people wheeling their office chairs home; funny to watch, but in all seriousness, if you can borrow a proper office chair – make the most of it. If you can’t, check out these creative ways to prevent aches and pains.

Make your workspace a happy place. Add something that inspires you, some greenery or a photo, but most importantly – keep it tidy!

 

 

Be social

Keep talking to your colleagues via calls, Zoom / Hangouts and Slack. At Manifesto we’ve set up a series of regular catch-ups. Our all company Monday ‘Super stand up’ has moved remotely and we’re actually seeing the benefits for those who had previously dialled in now being able to hear everyone far more clearly. We’ve added a mid-week Zoom for project updates and a general pick-up by seeing everyone’s lovely faces (Zoom backgrounds and Snapchat filters).

 

 

Our Mental Health First Aiders have taken small groups of the team for virtual tea/coffee breaks, they set up a weekly conversation starter so that we can talk about something other than Coronavirus.

Last thing on a Friday we all get together, for a quick catch up. Those who fancy some Friday night entertainment stay on the call for some virtual games (we’re still in the test phases but it’s looking promising!)

 

 

Encourage sub-teams to organise additional Hangouts so they can catch up and share their news (and general banter).

We started a shared Spotify playlist a couple of weeks ago that has ended up full of tasteful titles like “Don’t stand so close to me” by Police. Granted we’re all probably feeling a bit different about that now. Instead, why not create an uplifting playlist to recreate that Friday feeling?

Most importantly, check in on your colleagues. We all react to change in different ways, and we all have our own unique set of challenges at home with our partners, housemates or families. You may have new joiners that haven’t had the time to develop those friendships you have at work – look out for them. Don’t be afraid to ask if people are OK.

 

Be active

Your mental health relies heavily on your physical health. Eat well, drink lots of water and try to exercise safely in whatever capacity is available. There are a number of online resources that can help support your physical health from home.

For those with children, check out the Joe Wicks weekday P.E lessons at 9am – get involved and make it part of your routine.

At Manifesto we’re looking at streaming our regular weekly yoga and adding meditation sessions into the mix.

 

Life

Maintain your work life boundaries. When your work day ends, close that chapter of the day. Whilst digital technology is supporting our ways of working, it can hinder our mental wellbeing. We’re living in an ‘always on’ culture, and whilst that drives some people on and gives them structure, for most of us it’s not sustainable.

Avoid adding your work emails to your phone and turn off your Slack notifications. If you have a work mobile, be strict about turning it off when your work day ends.

Be mindful of your colleagues when sending them messages by understanding when email is a better choice than Slack. Whilst Slack enables quick conversation, it can also create a lot of noise whilst we’re all WFH. Be especially mindful if you are sending messages when your colleague has likely finished for the day. Respect people’s Slack statuses. And if they’re on holiday, wait until they return for non-urgent messages and emails.

 

Be proactive

Is there a list of home improvements you just haven’t got round to doing? Is that man (or woman!) drawer getting a bit full? Decluttering your home life and making improvements to your environment will benefit your WFH days. If you’re fortunate enough to own a garden, give it some love and watch it give it back.

 

Working with clients

Whilst we are fortunate that we are able to continue working remotely with little trouble, some of our clients are historically far more office based. It’s been interesting working with them to make sure they have the capability to keep pushing the work forward alongside us, still joining stand ups, workshops, and generally being as engaged and supportive as ever!

We’re constantly learning through this time of remote working and aim to keep you up to date. Check out this great blog post by Kjell about running remote workshops, or sign up to one of our weekly remote workshop surgeries where we will help with any remote workshop questions and discuss the things we have learnt.

 

Be (virtually) together

We shouldn’t be alone in this. Be there for one-another. Your colleagues are a support network. Strengthen existing friendships and make the most of this time to build new ones.

It’s a difficult time for everyone, if you require further support during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Mental Health Foundation has some guidance here.

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