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Mental Health WHF

Mental Health:
Make Working From Home, Work For You

Melissa Tombs

Drawing of a head and brain using different coloured chalk on tarmac

Mental health continues to be an important conversation with an increasing awareness and understanding about how integral it is to our wellbeing. Its apparent that many people have struggled with having poor mental health at some point and to varying degrees, which is why this conversation is so beneficial.

For most of us the past couple of years have been challenging and there have been huge adjustments to work life, including a big movement towards flexible working and working from home, hybrid working, or returning to the office.

Our mental health extends to how we feel in the workplace and equally our work has an impact on our mental wellbeing too, with a recent survey finding that over half of employees experience anxiety or low mood.

…over half of employees experience anxiety or low mood…

A person sits at a desk in front of a laptop in a dark room with their eyes closed and hands in a praying motion in front of their face

Working remotely offers more flexibility but it can come with its own struggles. The main benefits for most of us working from home is the flexibility and lack of commute, but some of the struggles include feeling lonely and isolated from colleagues and difficulty separating home life from work life.

As a remote-working team, we at Alchemy Medical Writing acknowledge these struggles and strive to combat them together, and I’m going to briefly talk about some key points that I think are important to help us achieve a better work-life balance, reduce stress, and feel part of a team.

 

1.    Connecting and communicating 💬

For me, the best and most simple way to combat feeling isolated is to reach out to my colleagues in our Teams chats, and this can be a message, a phone call, or a video call. As well as work chat, we often share gardening updates, holiday snaps, and TV recommendations, and having this more personal conversation helps to feel connected.

Opening up about good and bad days is really important too. It is amazing to celebrate the wins in life, but it is also incredibly uniting to share something that hasn’t got to plan or a task that feels tough. I’ve found that most people like to help others, and with our own knowledge and experiences we can help to shed light on that seemingly impossible brief, that difficult software, or those mind-boggling statistics. We’ve all been there, right?

2.    Taking breaks 🕜

A survey revealed that 35% of employees feel stress at work, with workload being the most impacting factor. Although we can’t always determine our workload, taking time for a break and getting some down time is important for a better work-life balance, to help think more clearly and to avoid burn out! The Health and Safety Executive also recommends that we leave our desk for a short break every 30 minutes.

…35% of employees feel stress at work, with workload being the most impacting factor…

Consider having a mindfulness break too. Mindfulness is a practice to focus on the present moment and can help in times of feeling stress or anxiety to improve your mental wellbeing. One way you can do this is through focused breathing exercises, and here is a 2-minute video to guide you through a mindful breathing exercise from Every Mind Matters if you’d like to try this for yourself. It’s easier and more effective than you might think!

"Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better." Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre

 

3.     Moving your body 🚶

We all know, and are told, that exercise and moving your body makes you feel better and allows you to think more clearly. Getting out for a walk is great, but we can also do some simple movement such as chair stretches or a walk to the kitchen for a cup of tea. The NHS recommend some great sitting exercises which can be done at your desk and these are great if you don’t have much time.

Here is a visual to help you get stretching:

An infographic showing a person demonstrating many different muscle stretching positions whilst sitting at their desk

 

4.    Optimising your workspace 💻

Tidy desk, tidy mind! Personally, this helps me hugely; having an organised, neat, and tidy desk space is so important. It gives me clarity and peace with minimal distraction, which really allows me to work well and perform at my best. A simple yet very effective practice.

Seating is important too. Being sat for most of the day for work requires a good, comfortable chair which supports my back, to avoid aches and pains or even long-term posture issues. I also have a footrest which I use to improve my posture and circulation and reduce pressure on my legs and back while sitting for long periods.

5.    Feeling valued 💕

This can perhaps feel more difficult to achieve as it considers your workplace, colleagues, and management team. But there are things we can do ourselves to help us feel a sense of achievement, pride, and value. Signing up to online training sessions can help you to focus on something new and can give you a sense of achievement when you have powered up your personal development.

Regular meetings with managers or mentors are also important as they allow you time to discuss your work, goals, and general wellbeing. Opportunities to feel heard and valued are key, with 75% of people likely to stay with their current employer if they had regular career chats.

A woman with blonde hair in a bun is sat at her desk which has a computer screen on it, a large black desk lamp and many house plants.

I appreciate that it’s easier said than done to incorporate new routines. It’s completely human to have highs and lows too, so I think it’s important that we try to give ourselves, and each other, patience and understanding when things are a little more difficult.

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to – a trusted colleague or a friend or family member may be able to support you or just be there to listen.

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There are lots of resources if you need some support - The Mind website lists some great organisations and contacts:

 

Anxiety UK

03444 775 774 (helpline)  / 07537 416 905 (text)

Advice and support for people living with anxiety.

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Beat

0808 801 0677 (England) / 0808 801 0433 (Wales)

Offers information and advice on eating disorders, and runs a supportive online community. Also provides a directory of support services at HelpFinder.

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British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)

Professional body for talking therapy and counselling. Provides information and a list of accredited therapists.

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Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

0800 58 58 58

Provides listening services, information and support for anyone who needs to talk, including a web chat.

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Carers UK

0808 808 7777 / 029 2081 1370 (Carers Wales) / advice@carersuk.org

Advice and support for anyone who provides care.

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Disability Rights UK

Information and support for people living with a disability.

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FRANK

0300 123 6600

Confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law.

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Hafal

Information and support for people affected by mental health problems in Wales.

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Hearing Voices Network

Information and support for people who hear voices or have other unshared perceptions, including local support groups.

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MindOut

Mental health service run by, and for, LGBTQ+ people.

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National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Produces guidelines on best practice in healthcare.

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NHS UK

Information about health problems and treatments, including details of local NHS services in England.

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No Panic

0300 7729844

Provides a helpline, step-by-step programmes, and support for people with anxiety disorders.

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Papyrus HOPELINEUK

0800 068 41 41 / 07860039967 (text) / pat@papyrus-uk.org

Confidential support for under-35s at risk of suicide and others who are concerned about them. Open daily from 9am–midnight.

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Samaritans

116 123 (freephone) / jo@samaritans.org / Freepost SAMARITANS LETTERS

Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

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Sane

Offers emotional support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems.

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Student Minds

Mental health charity that supports students.

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Time to Change (England) (Wales Campaign)

National campaign to end stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems in England and Wales. The campaign for England ended in 2021, but its resources are still available online.

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Turning Point

Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.

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YoungMinds

0808 802 5544 (Parents Helpline) / 85258 (Crisis Messenger for young people – text the letters YM)

Committed to improving the mental health of babies, children and young people, including support for parents and carers

 

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