Apr 20

Managing the challenges of supporting health and wellbeing when working from home

Posted: 20 April 2020

Like so many social care organisations, the COVID-19 crisis meant we suddenly had to think about how our colleagues could be supported to work from home for the very first time. Our priority was getting colleagues’ operational as quickly as possible and to the best of our ability ensuring that everyone’s health and wellbeing is continually supported. The Leadership Team continue to send out daily communications, giving updates and checking in. Teams from across the organisation have been creative about staying connected and have showed great empathy and compassion for colleagues that have needed support in adjusting to our new way of working.

As we managed the practicalities of adjusting our operating environment, we collectively acknowledged that things would be different, and it was really important to us that we agreed to be kind, tolerant, patient and accepting of each other’s personal situations.

We have got to grips with the technology, and one of the positives to come from our new way of working being embracing of the parts of each other lives which are often not visible or shared….

We have seen each other’s children pop up on screen requesting refreshments or asking for help with school work, we have seen family members pop onto the screen as they provide cups of tea and we even had a colleague’s 88-year old mum inadvertently join a conference call last week. They had been planning to have a video chat together later that evening and she was practising! Her unexpected interruption was accepted with smiles and kindness all round.

Below are some of the tops tips our HR team have pulled together which colleagues are finding useful  to support their health and wellbeing, reduce feelings of isolation, and feel connected with colleagues. We have links with mental Health First Aid and Mindful Employer as well as an employee assistance line who are sharing information which we also signpost to.

 Get set up

  • Waking up - Although you may have some extra time in bed without a commute, aim to wake up around the same time every day. You’ll feel less tired, more refreshed, and find it easier to concentrate throughout the day.
  • Getting ready - Keep to your established morning routine if you can, including getting dressed for a working day. This will help you get into the mindset that you are at work.
  • Setting up your workspace - Try to set aside a work area separate from your sleeping area, as this will help to prepare you to get into work mode and make it easier to switch off at the end of the day.
  • Small spaces - If you’re working with a small space, you could try setting up temporary ‘zones’ by using screens to separate your work area. Clear your work surface of clutter and set up your equipment to avoid physical strain using NHS guidance.

Get moving

Including some movement into your work from home routine will help maintain your physical and mental health. You’ll feel more awake and alert, and your concentration and sleep will improve.

  • Outdoors - If you’re not self-isolating, try going for a walk or a jog down the street before you start work – this can help you to feel like you have mentally ‘arrived’ at work. Doing the same when you finish your working day can help you to leave your work mindset behind and switch off.
  • Indoors - If you’re indoors, look online for an activity that suits you, such as home yoga or a fitness class. Live streamed sessions provide a great sense of community and many of our team have joined in the sessions offered by Joe Wicks.
  • Breaks - No matter what exercise you choose, or how you structure your day, remember to take regular screen breaks and stretch throughout the day. Take a clearly defined lunch break and move away from your workspace.

Get connected

Adapt your working style but make sure you keep communication open with your team – check in as often as possible.

  • Video calls – Generally speaking, the various tools on offer are pretty straightforward -  try to test them out to find what works for you. Ask family to help you with a dummy run or do it within your team. Be patient and if something isn’t working, switch tools or try logging out and logging back in again!
  • Vary your meeting times - Starting meetings at irregular times can often mean better audio and video signal. Traffic increases as the USA comes online between 2pm and 3pm.
  • Short check-in and check-out calls – Try team meetings at the start and end of the workday. Also consider longer Q&A sessions for colleagues to dial in when needed and chat through any concerns or queries they have about working from home.
  • Information security - Be aware of your responsibilities around information security. The National Cyber Security Centre offers a short interactive training video.
  • Social interaction – When you can't get together face to face, why not connect with someone and invite them for a virtual cuppa? Similarly, if you’re working on the same document as another team member in the cloud, stop and say hello to each other.
  • Take a Tour - We’re all curious about each other’s home working space so, if you’d like to share, give your colleagues a webcam tour or show off your pets at the end of a team meeting.

Get support

During times of stress it helps to stay connected so keep in touch with friends and family where you can. Communicate with your colleagues if you are feeling out of the loop or need to talk to someone. Look after yourself and set aside time to prioritise self-care.

If you’re feeling anxious or isolated, remember that support is always out there:

  • Workplace - Speak to your HR team or your Employee Assistance Programme if you have one. Some workplaces also have mental health first aiders.
  • Helplines - Find a list of national mental health services and helplines, plus tips at the Mental Health Foundation.
  • Wellbeing: Mind offers a wealth of information on taking care of mental health and wellbeing.
  • Happiness: Check out the 10 Days of Happiness programme.