Working from home
I used to think that working from home was a luxury as not many can do it. Depending on the job role, many people have to do the daily commute into the workplace and carry out their daily tasks. However, in the last two months this has completely changed.
The term ‘key worker’ can be added to the ever-growing list of new vocabulary we are getting used to hearing on a daily basis. The term is used to describe people who have jobs that are vital to public health and safety and which need to carry on at this time, and be carried out with minimal constraint. Schools are currently only open to vulnerable children and to those whose parents are key workers, as this ensures they can carry on working and their children do not need to be home-schooled. Key workers are people who work in the areas of health and social care, public safety and national security (such as the police, prison and probation workers), key public services (such as postal workers and journalists), food and other essential goods, education and childcare, utility workers, local and national government, and transport.
Of course, there are some jobs that do not come under the key worker definition, but ones that employees can’t do from home. Running a construction site is a good example of this – certain tasks can be carried out from home, but managing the construction of a building requires hands on management on the site where the work is being carried out. In this case, extra measures have to be undertaken to ensure the health and safety of all those working. These measures include social distancing, ensuring there are plenty of hand washing and hand-sanitising facilities, and staggered breaks so not everyone is using a smaller space at the same time.
For home-workers, such strict measures would not be in place, and employees can make up their own ways of dealing with this situation. When working in a workplace surrounded by colleagues, there is usually a set way of doing certain things, and unwritten rules of what should and shouldn’t be done. With home-working, all of these could be forgotten about, but would that be productive and good for people’s mental health?
There are many top tips for how to work from home effectively, but linking the change in employment circumstances to the impact on mental health can be positive in highlighting how even people who are still employed may be affected by the changes. A vital one, I think, is to make sure you get dressed as it can psychologically prepare you to start work. This can be used to differentiate the clothes you wear to do different things in, such as relaxing or sleeping, and in turn can help people switch off from work when they change back into them. Making sure an established pattern is set up to work from is also key, such as working hours, and a good sleep pattern is adhered to which would ensure enough sleep has been had before tackling the day ahead.
Depending on the job role, working alongside colleagues may be the only way of communicating to others throughout the day. When working from home, and especially if you are living alone, that may mean that no communication is happening. Therefore, communication over the phone could be key to keeping your spirits up, instead of relying on sending emails. Coffee breaks over skype have become the norm with some people, and it allows not only for some human (virtual) contact, but also a chance to have a break from work.
Having a routine when working from home isn’t just about making sure you work your normal working hours, it is also about ensuring breaks are taken as well. Sitting in front of a screen for hours can, among other things, cause a reduction in productivity, and so frequent breaks have been found to be better than one long break during the day. Standing up, moving around, and even going for a short walk can also be beneficial. Enjoying the fresh air beyond the garden (if you have one), within the current guidelines, can not only have health benefits but can also create the opportunity to have a positive impact on work issues as well, such as a mental block.
The global pandemic will have many long-lasting effects, but perhaps one that may impact a lot of people right away will be the potential changes this has on whether people really do need to undertake a commute every day to carry out tasks they could largely do from the comfort of their own home.
Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons) Cert HE
Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach