Our working lives have changed dramatically in the last few years. For many of us, home and work life boundaries have blurred, and our priorities have shifted.
As we enter the third year of this pandemic, many of us are still grappling with the new normal, and beginning to process the effect that all of this has had on our bodies and minds.
Whether you’re back to office life, working ‘hybrid’ or fully remote, here’s our guide to looking after your mind at work in 2022.
Mental health tips for working from home
Research has shown that despite its many benefits, our new ‘WFH’ reality isn’t great for our mental health. With many of us now working from home at least half of the week, here are our top tips for looking after your mind while working from home.
Create your own commute
Rolling straight out of your bed and onto your desk might once have sounded like a dream setup, but in reality the lack of separation between work and home time can be harmful for our mental health.
Try to create your own ‘commute’ to help you transition in and out of the working day, perhaps by going for a walk, doing a workout or simply lighting a candle and practising some journalling, yoga or mindfulness to wind down.
Be strict about your working hours
When your office is your bedroom, it can be difficult to set boundaries between work and play. You might find yourself working overtime, or fitting in extra hours on the weekend just because you can.
Being strict about your working hours will help you avoid burning out, and will also prevent work and home life blending into one.
Optimise your workspace
It’s worth investing in a great working environment: whatever that looks like for you. It could mean decorating your space with plants and candles, finally buying yourself a proper back support or simply moving your desk so that you’re facing a window. Small changes can make a big difference to your productivity and wellbeing.
Take regular breaks
Rest is productive. Without taking regular breaks, you simply can’t perform at your best, and you’re much more vulnerable to stress and burnout.
Rest can be active (e.g. doing a workout or reading a book), or passive. But for rest to be restorative, it needs to be restful: that means no tasks, no slack notifications, and definitely no work emails.
Working from home doesn’t need to mean working alone. Try to incorporate social connection into your working day when possible.
Instead of emailing a colleague, can you pick up the phone? Or could you swap your pre-pandemic Fridays in the pub with a virtual games night? We’re all naturally social creatures (even the introverts among us), so small social exchanges throughout the day can make a really big difference.
Prioritising your mental health at work...
For too long, mental health has been a taboo subject at work, with any form of vulnerability associated with weakness.
The culture is slowly shifting, and we are beginning to understand that we all have mental health, and that being vulnerable makes us stronger and more connected.
Whether you’re working at home or in the office, here’s how to take better care of your mind in the workplace.
Bring mental health into the open
Mental health is universal. There should be no shame in sharing your mental health problems at work - just as you might speak to HR or a colleague about a physical health problem. Of course, you’re under no obligation to share anything personal at work. However, you may find that being honest about how you’re feeling takes a weight off your shoulders and helps you feel less alone. In general, people are much more compassion and understanding than we expect, and you may even find points of connection with your colleagues who most likely have gone through or know someone who has gone through something similar.
Set good boundaries
It’s important to set boundaries between work and home life, and to take regular breaks. Make sure to take your full lunch break, and to spend it away from your desk. Whether you’re working at home or in the office, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key. Having a fulfilling life outside of work will not only help your mental health - but may also aid your productivity, enabling you to return to work refreshed and reducing the likelihood that you’ll reach burnout.
Ask for help
If your workload isn’t manageable, or you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out to your manager or HR representative for support. Your company may even be able to provide counselling or at least will be able to take some work off your plate. Asking for help can be difficult, but remember that there is so much strength in vulnerability: your colleagues will respect your honesty, and ultimately you will be much more effective if you’re not burnt out.
Take a mental health day
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just as you may need to take some time off for a physical health condition, you are fully entitled to take time off if you’re struggling with your mental health.
Mindfulness and meditation is a great way to inject some calm into your working day. You can practice by yourself or with your colleagues - At MindLabs, we always close our weekly team meetings with a five-minute mindfulness exercise!