Well-being when working from home
Activities scheduled either side of the day can help to "bookend" the working day, which creates a mental separation between home and work life. They also help to create time to process the events of the day and unwind.
Fresh air and exercise are vital for well-being. Being active can help to relieve stress and have a positive impact on depression and anxiety. However, working from home can reduce activity levels and staff are often more sedentary when compared to working on-site.
Setting reminders or alerts can help to provide cues to get up, stretch and walk around when working from home. In addition, consideration could be given to using the time saved by not commuting to go out for a walk, bike ride, run or complete an exercise class.
Remember the basics
Working from home provides a great opportunity to eat healthy and balanced meals that can be prepared fresh every day.
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel, with the brain needing a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function properly. Don't forget to include treats as part of a health balanced diet.
Sleep helps to regulate mood and behaviour. Changes to routine, such as switching from working on-site to working at home can impact on routine and sleep patterns.
Try to maintain a regular bedtime and add in some time for relaxation before bed. Most importantly, do not work in bed.
Creating new habits initially takes a lot of energy to develop because you have to consciously think about developing them. However, once a habit is established, it will save energy and time because those particular routines will now be automatic, not requiring any thought.
Drinking enough liquid helps to keep the brain from having to struggle against the effects of dehydration, which enables it to think more clearly. Keeping a bottle or glass nearby can help provide reminders to drink regularly throughout the day.
Consider using the time saved by not commuting to create healthy new habits when working from home.
Maintaining regular communication with management and colleagues is key when working from home to help reduce any feelings of isolation.
As humans, social interaction is essential to every aspect of our health. Making time for social chat with colleagues helps to increase rapport, reduce feelings of isolation and helps keep the brain healthy.
- A formal keeping in touch process should be agreed with management when working from home. This will help to provide regular opportunities to catch up and discuss work and ensure queries can be addressed in a timely manner. Any concerns relating to well-being should be discussed as early as possible to ensure that appropriate support can be provided
- Regular communication should also be maintained with colleagues to provide opportunity to share concerns, workloads or discuss support. Remember to make time for non-work-related chats that would take place in the workplace. Consider organising a certain time of day/day of the week when everyone dials in to catch up and socialise
- Make use of the diary to identify busy and free times during the working day and ensure that colleagues have access to this to enable them to know when best to contact you
- Managers and colleagues will be less able to see as easily if you are struggling, so make sure you flag for help when you need it
Maintain regular hours
Working from home can mean increases in working hours, with homeworkers tempted to use the normal commute time to start work earlier or finish later. Frequently working additionally hours can increase feelings or tiredness and the risk of burnout. It is therefore important to maintain regular working hours and create signals to mark the start and end of the day. This will help to create clear boundaries.
The Trust has a flexible working procedure in place for staff to request flexible working practices on a trial or permanent basis.
Individual circumstances mean that working hours might need to be adjusted when working from home. This could be due to personal circumstances or to enable work to be completed when you are at your most productive. Discuss with management the possibility of changing working hours when working from home, understanding if there are core hours required as a department. Remember to keep colleagues informed of any changes to working hours so they know when and how to best contact you.
Take a break
Making time for breaks is important to help manage feelings of stress, especially as the human body is not designed to sit for long periods.
Say "stop". Often, when we’re stressed, our thinking becomes too fast and we spiral into panic. The trick to getting out of this is self-awareness. As soon as you recognise what is happening, say the word "stop" – ideally out loud, but in your head is fine too.
The "stop" technique (or "thought stopping") is often used in cognitive behaviour therapy to help prevent obsessive or worrying thoughts from taking over. By recognising what is happening you have the opportunity to change your way of thinking.
When working on-site, frequent breaks are created through engaging in chat with colleagues, getting up to make hot drinks, or walking between meetings. Consider using an alarm or diary reminders to schedule in regular breaks to move, look away from the screen or stretch.
Don’t forget to book in regular annual leave breaks. Simply knowing annual leave is booked can increase serotonin levels and reduce cortisol, making people less stressed and more content.
Consider meditation, as it can help to reduce stress levels and can be easily done from home during the working hours. Try using apps such as Headspace.
Relaxation doesn't have to mean sitting still. Gentle exercise – such as a walk, yoga or pilates – can help too .
Try a digital detox in the evenings
Technology makes it easier to stay connected 24/7, but the downside is that it can make it difficult to switch off and separate work from home life.
Try a digital detox to help switch off from work at the end of the day. Make sure you switch off email and phone notifications at the end of the working day.
Shutting off from technology for a given period of time can:
- improve sleep and concentration
- reduce stress
- improve happiness
- help with your mental health
Quick ideas for a digital detox
- No-tech mornings – when your alarm goes off, try not to open your phone for the first hour of the day
- Put your phone down during lunch – taking a mini detox during your lunch break can help you gather your thoughts and focus your energy on getting through the rest of the working day
- Give yourself a screen time allowance – consider giving yourself a maximum time allowance for your device each day to set limits around use
- Dial back with do not disturb – turn on the “do not disturb” feature on your smartphone. This will silence all notifications on your phone, including phone calls, for as long as you have it enabled
Take time to look after yourself
Be conscious of your own mental health and be kind to yourself. It can be easy to get caught up in your busy work or personal life and caring for other people.
Build in some "me time" to do something you enjoy. Taking time out for fun and participating in something that you enjoy doing is good for emotional well-being.
The Trust provides a number of tools to support staff with health and wellbeing. Take time to familiarise yourself with and use them when required.
Most importantly, if you are struggling always ask for help. Working from home is a new experience for many staff and can take time to adjust to a different way of working.
Staff counselling service (QEHB)
Tel: 0121 371 7170 (08:30 – 16:30, Monday to Friday)
Staff counselling service (Good Hope, Heartlands and Solihull hospitals)
Tel: 0121 424 7001 (08:30 – 16:30, Monday to Friday)
NHS national well-being support line
Tel: 0330 131 7000 (07:00 – 23:00, seven days a week)
Text: 85258 (24 hours a day, seven days a week)
Psychological self-help apps
The following apps are all available for free for NHS staff until Thursday 31 December 2020:
Tel: ext. 17612