In bygone days, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, working from home was seen by many, as a panacea for work/life balance. Fast forward just seven months and the dream is now a long-term reality for many in the UK, and unsurprisingly, people are missing the buzz of the office and the happiness that comes from real-life interaction. Zoom and Teams fatigue has entered our vocabulary and new research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is showing that feelings of loneliness have made nearly two thirds of people’s mental health worse during the past few months.
Whilst some juggle working alongside a busy household, more and more people are struggling with working and living alone. The latest ONS research reported that “Feeling lonely was the factor most strongly associated with reporting high anxiety – people who “often or always” felt lonely were almost five times more likely to report high anxiety than those who “never” feel lonely.”
It is even more important than ever that we take time to reach out to family and co-workers and check on “how they are doing”. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first contact. Physical isolation should not mean social isolation.Don’t ignore maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even if you might feel that it is even more difficult to stick to a healthy lifestyle when working from home, or that there is simply ‘no point’ in bothering. We know that a healthier body makes it more likely you will have a healthier mind. So, this is the time to get more sleep, eat better food, drink less alcohol, stop smoking (or at least smoke less) and to exercise more regularly. Remember that many people are a lot less active when working from home, they lose the activity that they would have had commuting to and from work, walking to meetings, chatting to colleagues over the water cooler etc. This activity needs to be made up i.e. make an effort to get up and stand at least once an hour while “at work”. Take a lunch break and have a small walk or similar during that break.
It is OK to reach out for help if you do not feel able to cope. Just because there are many people who have physical health difficulties during the current crisis, it does not mean that those in a mental health crisis should not be cared for too.
Make use of trusted sources of information to bolster your mental resilience. Have a look at the NHS Every Mind Matters website https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/your-mind-plan-quiz/ which provides a range of information and tools that may be useful. The Mental Health Foundation has some information which is specific to the current outbreak https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-yourmental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak . Other resources include www.headspace.com and www.calm.com
Look to have a routine if you have to work from home. Your day should closely follow the day that you would have had if you had to travel into the office. Use the time (or part of) that you would have spent travelling, doing something for yourself e.g. exercise, meditation, speaking to a friend, colleague or relative. Try to have a delineation between work and home life.
Dr Teng Fong MBChB, FRNZCGP, DOccMed, Dip Obs
Dr Fong has completed her Diploma in Occupational Medicine and has worked in the field of Health Assessments with many large providers of health care including Bupa, Nuffield Hospitals and at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth. She has also continued to work in the field of Occupational Medicine and currently divides her time between this and her work at Preventicum. She is a great believer in preventative health care and will work with you to create a plan to help improve your future health as well as guide you through any key findings that may arise as part of your health