Work from home tips for good mental health

Remote working has become the new normal for many of us. While these benefits are great, working from home can impact our mental health if we’re not careful. Lisa Gunn provides some tips for making the most of the benefits of working from home.

Remote working gives us the freedom to be more flexible with our time and balance our work and private lives inside a schedule that works for us.

However poor working conditions, not maintaining healthy sleep habits and social isolation can all cause our emotional wellbeing to decline. So making sure we know what to look out for and how to seek support when we need it is vital.

Key takeaways

  • Overall, remote working was found to have a positive effect on mental wellbeing
  • Remote working can give employees the flexibility to manage their work and home life
  • Tailored work from home training benefits both the employer and the employee
  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing an employee working remotely
  • Establishing healthy working conditions and boundaries early on goes a long way to maintaining healthy wellbeing practices in the long run.

The new normal

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, home working was on the rise. Now, in certain sectors a hybrid model is seen as a fundamental employment benefit.

Offering remote working makes it easier for the employer to retain talent while fostering a positive culture of trust and flexibility within their organisation. This largely results in a happier, more balanced workplace where employees find it easier to balance their work and home life.

However, working from home does mean we have to be more conscious of our emotional and mental health and wellbeing. Many factors can contribute to the onset of mental health problems like anxietystress, and depression.

There are a number of factors that employers and employees should be aware of when working from home. Take a look below to see how our Remote Working White Paper has informed our understanding of how best to implement a healthy remote working model.

Separate your work and home life

Although working from home can mean you feel more comfortable with your surroundings, this can be a double-edged sword. Working on the sofa and staying in your pyjamas might sound appealing at first, but it’s vital you enforce distance between your workspace and your personal life early on.

Having a designated space you go to everyday for work is essential. It not only lets the brain know that it’s time to work, but it allows you to switch off at the end of the day and transition into the evening without the visual cues you associate with work in view.

Take a look below for some more tips:

  • Designate a workspace: If you’re lucky enough to have an office space, great. If not, work away from your bed if possible. This will help prevent your brain making the association between work and sleep.
  • Get dressed: Start the day the same way you would if you were going into the office. This helps with continuity and the establishment of healthy routines.
  • Switch off in the evening: While working into the evening may be necessary at times, it’s not a healthy habit. Our brains need time to relax and unwind after a long day at work.
  • Routine, routine, routine: Setting rules for yourself helps limit distractions and ensures you remain productive at home. This helps prevent anxiety around self-care and productivity.

Feel like part of the bigger picture

It can be easy to feel isolated when working away from the office, especially if the rest of your team meet in person more regularly.

Not feeling part of the bigger picture at work can make you question your self-worth and lead to feelings of redundancy, which cause you to isolate further. If you live alone, this can quickly have a negative effect on your emotional and mental health and wellbeing.

Thankfully, there are several things that you and your employer can do to prevent this from happening. These include:

  • Regularly check in and collaborating with colleagues
  • Make sure employees are still invited to social functions, regardless of their location
  • Ensure you’re invited to all the meetings that apply to your role
  • Maintain the same workplace camaraderie and banter you have in the office
  • Continue to work closely with departments that overlap with your own
  • Regularly communicate using video and phone instead of strictly using an instant messenger.

Work alongside management

Maintaining a clear channel of communication with your manager and other senior colleagues is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety when working from home. Because you won’t be seeing them as much in person, it can quickly become difficult for both parties to pick up on how things are going, both personally and professionally.

Regularly checking in allows you both to catch up, and have a laugh, voice any concerns in a constructive manner and understand what’s expected of you both. Maintaining open communication puts you in the best position to succeed away from the office.

Developing and maintaining trust

Trust is another vital component when working from home. You may also feel that your manager is checking in on you and doesn’t trust you. Whether this is true or not, it can lead to feelings of imposter syndrome, anxiety and worry.

This is where having healthy systems for managing workflow, feedback and communication are vital. Employers should also note that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to hybrid management and that a unique plan for each employee may be required for the model to be mutually beneficial and successful.

The importance of mental health awareness and training

There’s no incentive to change a behaviour if you don’t know it’s potentially problematic. For example, waking up five minutes before you start work may sound like an easy option, however it could be the reason why the rest of your day feels harder. This is where good mental health awareness comes in.

It’s in the best interest of the employer and employee to understand how certain behaviours, structures and practices can impact our mental health at work. When we are experiencing good mental health we are more likely to be efficient, productive and make positive contributions to our lives.

Mental health awareness training helps the employee understand the best way to navigate transitioning into a hybrid working model. Making sure your employees are aware of the help that’s available is also important, as the signs may not always be obvious if an employee isn’t in the office.

Our own research

In line with the findings of the Nuffield Health White Paper on Employee Wellbeing and Remote Working, we are doing our part to address the effect (both positive and negative) that remote working has on employee wellbeing.

With remote working becoming more and more popular, it’s vital employees and employers understand how to maintain and reinforce positive health and wellbeing practices in the home workplace.

If you are experiencing difficulties

If you work remotely or are finding the stress of the workplace too much, we offer a range of mental health services to help out wherever you’re at. This includes access to therapists, online CBT therapy courses, mental health awareness material, and more.

If you are distressed or are experiencing despair, talk to someone now. If you or anyone else is in immediate danger or harm, please call 999.

Last updated Monday 11 March 2024

First published on Friday 4 August 2023