During the current COVID-19 outbreak, we are being asked to work from home and stay at home as much as possible. The health and wellbeing of our staff and students is our priority at this time and so the Occupational Health Department would like to share the following advice and information. These tips will help staff stay safe and well whilst working from home.
Working from home may help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off from you colleagues and the larger operation. Agree with colleagues how you will stay in contact with them whilst you are not in the office (e.g., email, phone calls, skype meetings). If you are aware of people working on solo projects or those that live alone, make sure that they are receiving regular contact. You could have a buddy system where you agree to check in with a colleague every other day even if you don’t need to be in contact about work matters, just to see how they are. This is especially important during the current situation where people may be anxious about what will happen. Looking after each other in this way can help reduce these worries.
Choose a dedicated workspace that will be free from distractions. Whilst you are working at home, it is still important to consider your workstation set up to avoid aches and pains and long term injuries. It is especially important to consider this when using a laptop or portable device. There is lots of information regarding the safe use of Display Screen Equipment on the Occupational Health website.
Set a schedule for the working day, just as you would if you were in the office. Having clear guidelines for when you will be working will help you to maintain your work-life balance. You should try to keep to your regular office hours as much as possible, as late night working can disrupt sleep patterns.
Make sure you take aregular lunchbreak and get away from your workstation for the duration of your break, ideally to another room. Try to switch off from work during this time and refrain from checking emails etc.
Talk openly and freely with friends, family and colleagues about how you are feeling. This is especially important during the current situation where people may be anxious about what will happen. It is a good idea to schedule in a regular virtual meetings (e.g., on zoom) to keep in touch with colleagues. Whilst working at home, you may be missing out on social connections that you would usually have in the office and this can have an impact on emotional wellbeing. So make sure you include some social chat during your meetings (you could introduce your colleagues to your pets or take them on a tour of your garden!). Keeping this social contact can help reduce uncertainty and stress.
If something has worked for you why not share it. It might benefit someone you care about and in the meantime it might help you take your focus off your own challenges. For example, you may have found a great breathing exercise on youtube that you could share with your team for times when they feel overwhelmed.
This is an uncertain situation that we are in and it is likely to contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety, but we are all in it together so treat others with compassion and empathy. Keep checking in to see how your colleagues are coping at home, and if they are having any difficulties that you may be able to help with.
Remember to look after yourself. Make time to relax or do something that you enjoy. Self-care will be different for everyone. Whilst one person may feel better after a meditation session, another may relax by hitting a punchbag in the garden, or even looking at funny social distancing based memes on the web!
Working from home can mean that it is harder to keep active as you may be missing out on your daily walk/cycle into work. But keeping active, even if just some simple stretches or low impact movement, really does have a positive effect on emotional health and wellbeing. Sport England has pulled together exercise ideas for keeping active in and around the home. Teamhud are also helping staff stay active by posting ’Workout of the Week’. Find out how you can get involved here.
Through our staff counselling and mental health support platform, Staff Wellbeing Confidential Support, you can access an extensive range of self-help resources including a range of CBT workbooks on topics such as stress, depression and low mood, bereavement and sleeping problems, and can also access 24/7 confidential telephone counselling (03303 800658) from qualified and caring professionals.
We have a dedicated network of skilled Mental Health First Aiders who can still be contacted, most easily by email. They will be able to signpost you to further support. Find out who the Mental Health First Aiders in your area here.
The Education Support Partnership provides mental health and wellbeing support services to all education staff and organisations. They can provide telephone support and counselling.
Preparations are under way for some staff to safely return to campus in September, with all the necessary precautions being taken in buildings, spaces and operations. Although this is a really positive step and many staff will welcome this after months of being at home, the prospect of returning to campus may also bring up some worries, which is natural.
Although you may be excited about getting back to a more ‘normal’ way of working and seeing colleagues again (in the flesh!), you may also be concerned about things like the use of public transport, continuing social distancing on campus or using shared facilities. Below are some tips to help you look after yourself and make a smooth transition back to campus.
The University is a Covid-19 secure campus and all the necessary precautions are in place to ensure that the return to campus is safe for staff and students. Familiarising yourself with these measures will help you feel more confident about returning to campus. You can read about the measures being taken here (under ‘Your safety, campus access and services), at the bottom of the same page is a short video on Staying Safe on Campus.
Whether you are feeling excited and/or nervous, it is likely that your colleagues are feeling the same way as you, so this is a great time to support each other and discuss how you are feeling. Don’t be embarrassed to speak up about your concerns, as you may be able to help somebody else who is secretly feeling the same way. If you have specific concerns, you can also discuss these with your line manager as soon as possible, as there may be practical ways they can help.
Whilst remote working, some of us may have slipped out of our regular routines. So, in the week leading up to going back to the office, go to sleep at the time you usually would before travelling to campus, and set your alarm for the time that you would normally need to get up if you were travelling into the office. This will help you get adequate sleep to prepare for your return, and rather than the early alarm being a shock on that first morning, you are more likely to wake up refreshed and ready for your first day back!
Taking time out each day to look after your wellbeing is a really positive thing to do. Self-care looks different for everyone but finding what works for you can have many benefits. This may be a getting out for a walk, listening to your favourite music on the commute, playing your favourite video game or simply doing a five-minute breathing exercise on the walk back to your car at the end of the day. It can feel a bit self-indulgent sometimes but doing this consistently can be really beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
Whilst we continue to adapt to the changes to our normal everyday lives it is still a worrying time for some and many of the anxieties we may feel about returning to campus are understandable, we can fall into negative thinking patterns and let these worries become overwhelming. Distorted thinking patterns include (but are not limited to) catastrophising (anticipating the worst and most disastrous outcome from a situation), mind reading (assuming you know what other people are thinking) and filtering (only focusing on the negative aspects of a situation and ignoring the positives). Once you learn to recognise these negative thinking patterns, you can start to challenge them to ensure your thinking is balanced and realistic, and that negative thoughts don’t become overwhelming.
The University’s staff counselling and mental health support platform Staff Wellbeing Confidential Support has self-help resources specifically aimed at anxiety. The CBT workbook will teach you about the different types of distorted thinking, enable you to recognise them in your day-to-day thoughts, and also how to effectively challenge these thoughts. You can also access 24/7 confidential telephone counselling (03303 800658) from qualified and caring professionals.
We offer our sincere condolences to anyone who has suffered a bereavement through COVID-19, or under any circumstance during this time.
As we experience changes to the way we work and our life at home due to lockdown, we may find we are drinking more than before. In times of uncertainty and stress we can find ourselves drinking more often or more heavily, or relying on alcohol to deal with our feelings. Some of us may also be concerned about a loved ones use of alcohol during this time. If you are worried about yours or a loved ones drinking, or just feel that now is a good time to make some changes, below are some sources of information and support.