Working from home: A checklist to support your mental health during Coronavirus
Published: 25 March, 2020
Dr Jill Newby, Associate Professor of Psychology at UNSW and based at the Black Dog Institute shares her checklist for taking care of your mental health when working from home.
It may have started as a bit of a novelty, but working from home for long periods of time can start to affect our mental health. Just as it is important to look after physical health during the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus, it’s also important to keep on top of how you are feeling.
Some common feelings you might be experiencing are:
- Feeling isolated, lonely, or disconnected from other people – socially and professionally
- Being unable to ‘switch off from work’
- Having difficulty staying motivated
- Having difficulty prioritising your workload
- Feeling uncertain about your progress, and whether you’re performing ok
- Insomnia and sleep problems
To help combat this, here are some tips to protect your mental health when working from home.
Set up routine and structure for your workday — create boundaries between ‘work time’ and ‘home time’
Set a routine as if you are going into the office, with a regular start time, and finish time, and a structure for your day, with breaks and exercise scheduled in. This will help you maintain a strong boundary between work and home life, minimise the possibility of work intruding into your family time, and help you switch off from work at the end of the day. Creating cues, such as getting changed into your work clothes at the start of the day, and out at the end, can help with this.
Create a specific place in your home where you work (avoid your bedroom)
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. It will then become associated with being alert, awake and switched on.
Stay connected with co-workers and your manager by scheduling 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
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 and home life. Try a digital detox to help you switch off from work, so you can spend quality time with your family, or do the things you want to do.
Try and 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.
Focus on the silver linings
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, and can even help to avoid challenging colleagues!
Don’t forget the other helpful actions for maintaining positive mental health
- Exercising, getting a good night's sleep and eating well
- Doing activities you enjoy
- Staying connected with social supports
- Managing stress through problem solving, relaxation or meditation
- Thinking in helpful ways
You can read more about tips for managing mental health during times of uncertainty here.
If you need more tips, skills and strategies, consider asking for help from your employee assistance provider if you have one, do an online program, or seek help from a professional. There are also range of free or low-cost digital mental health tools that are available in Australia that can help for mental health. The Australian government is now supporting psychologist sessions over the phone or video, allowing some members of the public to access bulk-billed sessions.
Here is a list of helpful online resources and digital tools:
myCompass | visit website
Black Dog Institute Online Clinic | visit website
This Way Up | visit website
MindSpot| visit website
Associate Professor Jill Newby is a Clinical Psychologist and MRFF Career Development Fellow based at the Black Dog Institute, UNSW Sydney. Her research focuses on understanding fears of illness, and using technology to deliver evidence-based treatments for anxiety and depression.
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)