It goes without saying that a positive mind space and enhanced wellbeing are fundamental to our overall health. With so many people working remotely, lack of communication and human connection gets harder and harder as the days go by. We spoke to Sarah Eames, clinical psychotherapist (CBT & EMDR), mental health specialist and founder of @SpeakEasyVirtualTherapy_ on the importance of a healthy mindset while working remotely.
In this blog, we discuss the importance of a positive working environment, how to handle stress and enhance productivity
Q1. What are your top tips for creating a positive work environment and enhancing productivity while working from home?
Firstly, we have to acknowledge how difficult things are in terms of working remotely. Everyone has their own set of challenges, some have exams to study for, children at home to home-school and challenges with technology so it is important that we recognise and understand that working remotely is not always an easy thing to do. However, a positive working environment is the first step to a healthy mindset while working remotely.
In terms of the physical environment, I would firstly suggest creating a designated space to work. It is important that you work from that same space every day – so be it at your kitchen table or a desk in your room, try to make this your designated work space. I do recommend trying to stay away from the bedroom, as this is a specific area of rest, relaxation and of course, sleep (I hope I’m not missing anything!), but I understand this is not possible for everyone. Also, ensure your space is well lit, neat and tidy, comfortable and specifically yours. Light a candle, place your favourite plant or photo – make it your own little space.
Secondly, I would make sure you have everything you need for your work day in your work space – laptop, phone, diary, calculator, whatever it is for the job you do. Try to refrain from having to get up from your desk as this only leads to distractions.
I think it’s also very important to set out a schedule in order to create a positive working environment. Write down the tasks you have to do for the day ahead and make this a daily routine. So say ‘I’m going to start work at nine, work 3 hours, take a short break’ etc. You’re more likely to stick to something if you have it written down. It also helps to motivate you and avoid distraction because it’s very easy to hop to different tasks if we don’t have a structure in place.
Another top tip of mine would be to prioritise what needs to be done and if there is a task you’re pushing off or anxious to do – whether it be ‘a call to an important client’ or a ‘conversation with the boss’, try to put it at the top of your to-do list! It’s easy to avoid the things that are more challenging, but this will only lead to further anxiety. You can then reward yourself for doing so. This is key to a healthy mindset while working remotely.
Q2. What are the best ways to handle stress whilst working remotely?
I think we can all agree that 2020 brought a lot of uncertainty, unexpected changes and unprecedented challenges, many of which were out of our control. It’s understandable that emotions are heightened and stress levels have increased.
People are finding it increasingly difficult to switch off their brains and switch off from technology. We’re missing that office to home separation! As a result, people are going to bed later and slipping into unhealthy sleeping patterns. I can’t stress enough the importance of leaving the laptop for the night, logging out of apps you use for work on your phone and ignoring your work responsibilities when you log off for the day. I guarantee they’ll all still be there in the morning.
Rewarding yourself is critical to help reduce stress. Stepping away from your desk a couple of times a day is beneficial to your work productivity. Get up and change your surroundings. It could be grabbing a snack , getting some fresh air or doing some form of exercise. Exercise is a brilliant way of reducing stress while working remotely. The more you sweat, the less you’ll stress!
Feeling isolated can come with working remotely. People don’t get to see their colleagues in person anymore – no lunch time coffee breaks, no quick drink after work or no face to face conversations! Some people that have started jobs during the pandemic and have never met their colleagues in person. It is crucial to keep to your schedules and boundaries. Prioritise the tasks at hand, and if you start to feel you’re being given too many responsibilities, don’t be afraid to reach out or say no to certain things we may not have the time to do. Overloading yourself will of course only lead to stress! Remember to check in with colleagues regularly – a helping hand is only a call away!
Q3. How do I balance work life with family time when working remotely?
This question is something that’s coming up a lot in terms of therapy. Before COVID, parents were struggling with the work life balance and family responsibilities. They would understandably feel guilty if work was preventing them from spending time with their children. Parents often struggle to keep up with work, and in turn, get drawn away from family obligations. This can lead to an unhealthy mindset while working remotely.
So even though the boundaries between work and home life are already blurred, for some people, it’s definitely gotten worse during lockdown. In order to create a little bit more balance, boundaries need to be set. At the end of the working day, turn off the laptop or computer and this will reduce the temptation to check the emails and instead designate this time to family time – we need non interrupted time when working, but we also need non interrupted time with family!
It is important to try to get out of the house with the kids , as much as possible. Fresh air and physical exercise will to help to clear the head and tire out the kids before bed – winning!
Communication during these times is very important to help manage family expectations. Getting your kids involved and setting new routines, for example, renegotiating jobs around the house and identifying the chores that need to be done, will in turn connect the family through a sense of achievement and accomplishment.
Q4. How important is a good sleep pattern alongside a healthy diet when working remotely?
When it comes to sleep, the key word is routine. The average person needs between 6 and 8 hours of sleep a night. A good sleep routine can take time to achieve, but once established the results are definitely worthwhile. Winding down is always step one – switching off technology and making sure you’re not overly stimulated is crucial for a good night’s sleep. Exercising a few hours before bed is good too as you’re tiring yourself out. Another way of helping with sleep is relaxation – so, things like mindfulness, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing – there’s lots of options available.
A good sleep pattern and a healthy balanced diet go hand in hand. Ensuring you’ve eaten a nutritious meal throughout the day will help enhance focus, productivity and motivation! It’s very easy to opt for an easy takeaway, or snack convenient packets of crisps or chocolate. This feeling is amplified, especially while working in the comfort of your own home. The fridge is at arm’s reach and yes, snacking is normal, but ensure you’re snacking on fresh fruit or healthy snacking alternatives.
When snacking, opt for foods high in protein, fibre, healthy fats, fruits and veggies. These foods will keep you full for longer and help maintain focus. Understand that what you eat will impact your energy level and mood. If you persistently make bad food choices, this will lead to feelings of negativity, mood swings, tiredness and slumps. Remember to stay hydrated and drink lots of water throughout the day. Steer clear from fizzy drinks as these will only lead to sugar crashes! Herbal teas are also great to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume throughout the day.
A huge thanks to Sarah for taking the time to speak with us and for sharing her top tips for a healthy mindset while working remotely. Working from home looks to be the way forward but it doesn’t have to be so hard! With a few small changes, a positive mindset and an enhanced wellbeing are all possible! You can visit Sarah’s website for more info here.
Looking to enhance productivity and boost morale and wellbeing while your employees work remotely? Why not reward them with our delicious Remote Worker Snack Packs. A mouth-watering selection of the freshest fruit and healthy snacks to keep your staff fuelled through their working day. Check them out here!
If you’re finding things overwhelming or finding day-to-day tasks hard to keep on top of, contact Sarah on Instagram @speakeasyvirtualtherapy_ , pop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit your local GP for more info. You can also free text ‘hello’ to 50808, 24/7 for help with emotional crises or call Pieta House at 1800 247 247.