What can we do to support ourselves?
We are currently having to deal with the psychological and practical implications of working from home. This guide is aimed at helping you maintain your wellbeing in this time of change and gives you tips to build into your new routine.
Looking after your mental and emotional health
Just as our bodies need proper nutrition, exercise and rest, our minds need to be positively stimulated and given time to relax. Prolonged periods of social isolation can have a negative impact on our mental health. At this time, it is more important than ever to take proactive steps to maintain our wellbeing.
News and social media can generate a lot of fear and anxiety.
Be mindful of the sources your information is coming from. Avoid the social media hype and focus on facts. If you are finding the news stressful – try limiting your media exposure. Think about what you are sharing – try to share messages of hope rather than fear. Focus on recovery, support and community.
Dedicate 5-10 minutes per day to mindfulness or journaling.
You can use 10 Minute Mind platform to get started with mindfulness, or take a free online mindfulness course. When journaling, focus on the positives. Ask yourself:
- What am I grateful for today?
- What made me happy today?
- What have I learnt today?
- What did I do today to make someone happy?
Give yourself some micro-boosts.
Usually, as we move through our days, we have micro-boosts: small actions and encounters, like catching up with a colleague, buying lunch, leaving the office at the end of the day. When staying at home, we lose these boosts and need to plan what we can do throughout the day to give ourselves little sparks of positive emotions. This may be making a nice cup of coffee, ticking something off your to-do list, decluttering a drawer or learning a new skill.
Social support is important for our mental health.
Although self-isolating can feel lonely, you are not alone in this. Consider how you can maintain social contact safely, either with people in your household, or by calling your friends and family.
Make time for those around you.
If you are isolating with your family, schedule some activities you can do together, whether it’s playing board games, discovering new or old hobbies, or recording family videos.
Don't become too isolated if you are self-isolating alone.
If you are alone, think of people you can reach out to, schedule an online lunch with friends, family or colleagues, exercise together and share how you feel.
Access the Employee Assistance Programme if you feel your mental health declining.
If you find that your mental health and wellbeing is declining, you can speak to our Employee Assistance Programme provider (Care First) who will be able to offer emotional support or practical advice from one of their Citizen Advice Bereau trained advisers.
Find out more about staying connected on our Community page.
- Learn ways to address stress, anxiety and depression, check out SilverCloud, our online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy platform
- Our Employee Assistance programme provider, Care First, are holding daily wellbeing webinars on Covid-related topics. For the current list of webinars, you can visit the Remote, not Distant Learning Hub, or login to the Care First website (login: uclstaff, password: bentham) to access their library of previously recorded webinars.
- For more information on mental health and wellbeing while working from home visit the mental health and wellbeing guide from Mind. Alternatively LinkedIn Learning resources to support you during the Covid-19 outbreak provides information on mental health and well-being while working remotely during COVID-19.
- UCL have recently launched our new wellbeing survey for staff and postgraduate researchers. Published weekly, it is designed to check-in on individuals regularly to find out how they are coping with the pandemic and its impact on our day-to-day lives. We will use the results to build a detailed picture of wellbeing across the whole university and ensure that underrepresented groups aren’t being adversely affected by the outbreak. You'll also be able to use the data to inform local decisions from next month, when reporting dashboards will be shared with faculties, Vice-Provost offices and central professional services divisions.
The survey was shared via the Coronavirus Daily Update yesterday, and takes around six minutes to complete. Please encourage your staff to take part every week and help inform future improvements across UCL.
If you think you may have coronavirus, you have tested positive for the virus, or are awaiting test results, please remember to stay at home and use UCL Connect to Protect reporting tool.
Maintaining your physical energy
- Keep active
Think about how you can bring physical activity into your routine.
Make it work for you! You may want to have short bursts of exercise throughout the day or have a longer activity once a day.
Join an online workout to exercise with other people – this can help you stay motivated and connected with others.
Being physically active may just mean that you get up and stretch every hour or dance around the living room to your favourite song. Or try these exercises recommended by the Workplace Health physiotherapist.
- Eat well
As your routine changes, your appetite and eating habits may change with it. It may also be more tempting to snack more or turn to comfort food.
- Focus on buying healthy ingredients and avoid stocking up on junk food. Check out Mind's guide to food and mood for more information.
- For advice on Managing eating during lockdown, why not read this blog written by a UCL researcher?
- Build food breaks into your day. Pause what you are doing to eat to avoid mindless snacking.
- Keep a glass of water on your desk to stay hydrated.
Try to keep to your usual sleep routine. Establish a cut-off time for work to give yourself time to relax before bed. Create a bedtime ritual that will prepare your body and mind for sleep. This can be having a bath, reading a book, meditating or journaling.
Now that working from home is no longer a ‘nice to have’ option, but a necessity for most of us, we have to learn how to navigate blurred boundaries between work and leisure times. Some of us may be overwhelmed by having to combine work with looking after children, while others struggle with isolation. Whatever your circumstances, here are some tips to help you transition into home working.
Create a daily routine.
When working from home, it may be tempting to have an extra hour in bed and spend a day in your pyjamas, but having a routine can help you get into the right frame of mind for a working day and mark the start and the end of work. This may be a quick workout, setting up your desk or writing a to-do list.
Create some mini breaks in your day.
In the office, we often pause our work to have a chat with a colleague or walk to a meeting. Try to create mini breaks in your day where you focus on a non-work activity for 5-10 minutes. Pomodoro technique can help you stay productive by scheduling short bursts of focused work and breaks that you can spend on short household tasks, like loading the dishwasher or watering plants.
Make the most of your flexibility.
Think how you can schedule your work to make it work for you. Do you need to break your day up with another activity? Would you rather start working earlier to catch up while your kids are asleep? Do you need to segment your day into smaller working sections? Discuss this with your line manager and work out a pattern that will work for you and your team.
Be kind to yourself and others!
This is a challenging time that will affect us in different ways. Accept that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances. It’s ok to struggle with changes. It’s also ok to have your pets and children feature in your Teams meetings. If you need support during this time, you can speak to our Employee Assistance Programme provider (Care First) who can offer advice and an empathetic ear.
To learn more simple ways to improve your work-life balance and digital wellbeing, you can take this free online course from UCL PALS. As a part of the course, you will be required to answer a number of questions to establish the areas that can be improved and you will receive a wealth of easy to implement tips based on your answers. There are also tips for working from home in this blog post from Prof Anna Cox.