Mental Health

There are well documented best practices for using technology whilst working from home. But what about the best practice of taking care of your mental health? This week one of our Solutions Architects, Adam Cantwell, shares his experience with the adjustments he has made to remote working and how it’s just as critical to be able to disconnect from technology as it is to connect.

We Are All Guilty! 

It’s 8:30pm on a Saturday night, and you hear your phone vibrate. There’s a new email. “It can wait,” you think.  

A few minutes later, another buzz and it’s another email. “Maybe I should just have a look at it, something might be going on.” The next thing you know 20 mins of emailing back and forth have gone by, you’ve scrolled to the end of Facebook and disappeared down a rabbit hole on YouTube. Your partner or loved one is sitting looking at you, and you realise the technology that keeps you connected to the world has just pulled you away from a precious moment with the people you care about. 

There is no denying the COVID-19 crisis has caused all of us to change the way we interact with the world. The reliance on smart phones and computers have increased exponentially to the point where we are all having to rely on these technologies to keep us connected with our co-workers, friends and family.    

During this period of working from home and quarantine everyone will be riding a rollercoaster of different emotions, such as: 

  • Isolation, loneliness, or disconnection – socially and professionally 
  • Inability to ‘switch off from work’ 
  • Feeling unmotivated 
  • Difficulty prioritising your workload 
  • Uncertainty about your progress, and whether you are performing as well as you usually do
  • Trouble relaxing and sleeping  

It’s important to remember, you’re not alone. We are all experiencing something that has never occurred in our lifetime, and it’s okay not to feel okay. Below are a few strategies that have helped me cope during the move to working from home. 

Separate ‘Work Life’ and ‘Home Life’

Personally, I have found creating a routine as if I am going into the office helps to maintain a sense of normality. I will get up at the same time as I would normally, feed the animals, shower, and get dressed wearing the same clothing I would as if I was going into the office.  

I set an alarm so I will take a morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea break. I found that in the first week of being at home I was sitting at my desk for 4 – 5 hours uninterrupted. The chance encounters, and conversations I was having in the office stopped me from breaking up my day. Giving myself cues to get up and move around kept me feeling brighter, and my mind felt clearer when I returned to work. 

At the end of the day, I shutdown my computer, have a shower, get changed into normal clothes and leave my workspace until the next day. Doing this signals to me that work is done for the day and that I can start my ‘home time’. 

Try to Create a Separate Workspace

Studies show that working from home can interfere with sleep, especially for people who find it difficult to switch off from work. Avoid working in your bedroom if possible, keep your bedroom for sleep. Working in your bedroom may cause you to associate it with being alert, awake and switched on. We all need somewhere we can just be ourselves. 

Stay Connected with Co-workers and Your Manager  

Schedule regular virtual or phone meetings because everyday encounters with colleagues don’t spontaneously happen when we’re working from home! We need to be proactive in organising meetings and social connection to maintain positive relationships. Staying connected with others will help to reduce stress levels, help you feel less isolated, and stay productive. It also helps you communicate with your manager or employees to keep them informed of what you’re working on.  

Try a Digital Detox in the Evenings 

One positive aspect of being forced to stay at home is that I have found that I have started to pick up books again. Putting down my phone, turning off the computer and just being is something that I think we have all forgotten how to do. Whilst we all have distractions in our home lives, such as children, pets, and other responsibilities, it is very important to give yourself time to disconnect and try to be just present in the moment, practicing mindfulness. 

Get Outside at Least Once a Day 

If you’re not stuck in self-isolation, try to get outside at least once a day. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, and sunshine. If you are in isolation, go out to your garden or walk up and down your driveway or go out onto your balcony and enjoy fresh air. Being outside and having sun on your face can do wonders for your mental health. Personally, I have been going for walks with my wife and dogs at lunch each day to the local park. 

Be Optimistic  

Working from home can have many benefits. It can improve productivity, reduce distractions, reduce stress, improve work satisfaction, lower the time (and cost) you spend commuting, give you greater sense of control over your workday, spend more quality time with your loved ones, and even help to avoid challenging colleagues!  

We find ourselves with a unique opportunity. Let’s see what we can take out of these challenging times and adopt for when our lives return to normal.