Tips for team leaders and employees on how to support healthy mental wellbeing whilst working from home

Author: Micheal Martin FAICD, Managing Director, C-Suite Safety Solutions Leadership

Working from home is all about the head-space!

Start as you expect to finish

As a veteran of remote work, with over four years of working from home under my belt, I thought I would pass on a few tips and hints. The first tranche is for the team leader or manager and the second for everyone.

Tips for team leaders.

As a team leader you may not have led people who work remotely before. There is plenty of information about how to do this however in my experience it boils down to the following:

  • Safety. You will need to ensure your people can work safety at home. Do not assume they know what to do or have a plan around how to do it. Make it clear that work time should be spent at a suitable desk and chair with their equipment set up appropriately, so they do not suffer ergonomic issues.
  • Empathy. Remember your team member may not be comfortable working remotely. They may not be the only person who is working in the space. Their partner or their children may also need to be in the same area doing what they need to do. Also note that some people would prefer to be out of the home for various reasons and ongoing proximity to others may cause some issues for them. Lead with empathy to ensure issues outside their control do not become significant problems for you and your team.
  • Flexibility. Reevaluate the core working hours. Consult with your team about when the team can effectively meet or connect. Establish a routine that meets the needs of your team within the new circumstances. Keep in mind there may be others in the home who have their own obligations to other employers; you need to be flexible. Each team member will have their own distractions at home. People will need to adjust and that includes the additional issues that will arise from being with their family/flatmates more frequently throughout the day/week. Acknowledge that some distractions are good for mental health. Encourage your people to consider home based chores as ‘thinking time’ or a means of 'clearing the head'. Hanging washing out; washing the car; preparing a meal; vacuuming the floor; mowing the lawn are common points of friction in relationships which can be turned into a positive, short break, to clear the head or provide space to others. Consider this when developing your team routine so it is flexible and sustainable.

Tips for everyone.

As a team member there will be a point where the novelty of working at home will disappear. Working in your pajamas or lounging on a sofa is not sustainable. Your physical needs should be considered from the beginning and poor posture and personal hygiene will prove detrimental in time.

You need to find a way to separate work from the rest of your day. If you have an issue with balancing working hours now you may find it will get worse over time at home. Working from home takes organisation and, when there are multiple people in the same space, you need to communicate and coordinate with others so little issues do not become major problems. Safeguard your well-being early and the rest will follow.

Here are some tips:

  • Headspace. Find a way to move your head-space between work and non-work thinking. There is a tendency to blend the two and over time you will get worn down and work becomes a burden.
  • Cabin fever. Spend at least 30 minutes each day out of your residence. This allows you to walk away from the idea of work when you should be resting.
  • Exercise. Daily activity will assist in maintaining physical well-being. A 30-minute walk or other simple exercise should be encouraged.
  • Get set for Work. Getting dressed for work and changed after work has been proven to support a home-based work routine. Work clothes is also a sign to family of the head-space you are in. Take the time to separate your work area from your social area. If you do not have the space, you need to setup and pack things away each day as part of your routine. This segregation is a sign to others that you are at work or finished for the day.
  • Staying connected. Contact team members to ensure people are getting social interaction. Use online platforms provided by your employer to share positive messages and encourage others. With your family and friends, try to limit discussions about work to work time and other interests to social time.
  • Information. In this time of social isolation get your daily update of news only once per day. This will limit anxiety as the story will not keep changing throughout the day. The daily news cycle begins with predicting what may be announced, the announcement itself and then the review of what was announced. This is often three different things and the message can get confused. Far better to watch the main trusted source, once a day, remember any updates will be in the next news cycle the next day.

The key message to take away is that you need to get organised.

Don't just let yourself fall into a routine as you will soon find things are not what you thought they may be. Take a moment to read this great article on the Beyond Blue website: How mindfulness can help during the coronavirus outbreak

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About Micheal Martin FAICD, Managing Director, C-Suite Safety Solutions

Micheal is the Executive Director of C-Suite Safety Solutions and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He brings over two decades’ experience in working directly with key leaders from a diverse range of major global organisations; to deliver expert solutions in governance, risk and strategy that effect positive advancements in workplace safety.

Micheal has first-hand knowledge of the importance of safety practices, from the lunch-room, to the board-room, and the court-room; and combines this experience with a wealth of knowledge in fields of Business; Corporate Governance; Auditing; Industrial WHS; HR and Administrative Leadership.

Micheal