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COVID-19: Working from Home

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Supporting Your Mental Health whilst WFH

Here are some ways to support your mental health, reduce feelings of isolation, and feel connected with colleagues while working remotely from our friends at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. 

Get set up

Waking up
Although you may have some extra time in bed without a commute, aim to wake up around the same time every day. This helps stabilise your internal clock and improve your sleep overall. You’ll feel less tired, more refreshed, and find it easier to concentrate throughout the day.

Getting ready
Keep to your established morning routine if you can – get ready, washed, and dressed as if you are going to the office. This will help you get into the mindset that you are at work.

Setting up your workspace
Try to set aside a work area separate from your sleeping area, as this will help to prepare you for work mode and make it easier to switch off at the end of the day. You don’t need a home office to do this – a small desk set up in a corner of your room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table can do the trick. If you’re working with a small space, you could try setting up temporary ‘zones’ by hanging blankets or screens to visually separate your work area from your bed or living area. Clear your work surface of clutter and set up your equipment to avoid physical strain – do a self-check using the guidance at nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-sit-correctly. If you don’t have a chair with back support, you could add a firm pillow.

Get moving
Including some movement into your work from home routine will help maintain your physical and mental health. You’ll feel more awake and alert, and your concentration and sleep will improve.

Outdoors
If you’re not self-isolating, try going for a walk or a jog down the street before you start work for the day – this can help you to feel like you have mentally ‘arrived’ at work. Doing the same when you finish your working day can help you to leave your work mindset behind and switch off. 

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Tips for making WFH a Positive Experience 

With so many people now working from home, here are a few tips from Enrich You on things to think about to make sure working remotely is as positive an experience as it can be.

Whether you already have a physical space at home that you can dedicate to your working day, or whether you have to set-up and pack away each day, it is important that you are mindful of your physical and emotional surroundings in order to work comfortably and productively….

Are you sitting comfortably?

Whilst you may be comfortable sitting on the sofa with your laptop, it is advisable to use a proper table and chair and do a risk-assessment of your workstation. Check that the lighting is good. Be aware of wires becoming trip-hazards to you and others in the house. Check your posture and seating position to ensure that you are not slouching. Try to sit upright with your feet touching the floor and with proper line of sight to your screen. Ensure that your arms are horizontal with the keyboard and that you are not stretching to reach your mouse etc.

Your employer has a ‘duty of care’ when asking you to work from home and should provide you with proper guidance and equipment – but for comfort and safety in the short-term, try using cushions to aid physical support whilst sitting at your temporary workstation. Finally, be sure to take regular breaks and get up from your chair to walk around, stretch, eat and stay hydrated.

Setting boundaries and finding your routine

Separating your working life from your home life can be difficult at first. If you’re not used to working from home, you can easily get distracted and/or end up working extended hours. To avoid this, try establishing a routine to manage your day.  Good tips include setting yourself fixed hours…. getting dressed into/out of your normal work clothes to manage the psychological boundary between work and home…. and asking family members to avoid disturbing and interrupting you unnecessarily during working hours etc.

If avoiding disruptions is impossible and your work doesn’t involve you having to be at your desk during set hours (i.e. call answering/customer service etc), another approach is to set yourself a reasonable number of tasks to be completed each day. Whilst this approach might stretch your working hours across the day, the positive impact is that you can use it as a way of managing your energy levels and avoiding disruptions around normal family life. If you’re finding either of these approaches difficult – especially during the Covid-19 crisis – speak with your line-manager to find a reasonable solution and workaround.

Keeping in touch

Don’t be alone – there are many others in your situation right now. Speak to friends, family and colleagues about how they are managing. Try to maintain healthy social contact between co-workers and exchange notes on how you are each coping with working from home. The equivalent of a ‘virtual’ coffee machine chat can be achieved and maintained through social media, conference calling and/or a simple telephone chat, and is a healthy part of maintaining good working relationships. Whilst you might be relying on your line-manager for help and support at this time, remember that they might need support too – so check in with their wellbeing when you can.

In a nutshell:

  • Manage your boundaries by learning to separate work from home – both physically and emotionally. Be adaptable to your surroundings.
  • Set up your workstation comfortably and try to avoid disruptions.
  • Set yourself fixed hours or a certain number of tasks to achieve each day and learn to switch off at the end of your working day.
  • Stay in touch with colleagues and customers to share experience and help support them in their work and personal wellbeing.
  • And finally…. learn to be practical and adaptable at this time. Until we know differently, this is all temporary, so try not to worry and work with what resources you have.

For further reading here is a great guide from Glide on practicing remote working. 


A List of Indoor Activities That Will Keep Kids Entertained at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

With lots of children at home at the moment, most schools have provided home study plans and sites for keeping up their education during the day, but what about their leisure time. Parenting magazine Popsugar has some suggestions:

Whether your company has required that you work from home for a few weeks or your children's schools are closed, the coronavirus outbreak means a lot more of time spent indoors. Of course, your kids' health and safety is paramount, but keeping your little ones entertained for hours on end is probably vital for your sanity. In an effort to make the next few weeks a little easier on parents, we came up with a list of easy, kid-friendly activities that will keep their minds occupied at home, whether you're stocked up on crafting supplies or not.

1.Have a movie marathon

2.Make a fort

3.Do an easy craft.

4.Make an obstacle course

5.Write letters to relatives

6.Make a simple recipe.

7.Do a puzzle

8.Get building

9.Cuddle up with a few books.

10.Stage an impromptu concert. 

11.Plan a scavenger hunt

12.Have a board game night. 

13.Play a round of indoor games.

14.Dig up some of those activity books.

15.Have a mini self-care day.

16.Decorate cardboard boxes. 

17.Print out colouring pages. 

18.Put on a play.

19.Break out the Play-Doh.

20.Use water. 


Key Workers Explained 

Key worker: official list of UK personnel who can still send children to school reports The Guardian newspaper.

The Department for Education has published a list of “key workers” whose children will be prioritised for schooling during general closures because of coronavirus. Schools are being asked to continue to provide care for a number of children but will be closed to the majority from Monday 23 March.

Health and social care
Frontline health and social care staff such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, as well as support and specialist staff in the health and social care sector. In addition it includes those working in supply chains including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare
Nursery, teaching staff and social workers.

Key public services
Those required to run the justice system, religious staff, as well as those responsible for managing the deceased, and journalists providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government
Administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services, including payment of benefits.

Food and other necessary goods
Those involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food.

Public safety and national security
Police, support staff, Ministry of Defence civilian staff and armed forces personnel, fire and rescue staff, and those responsible for border security, prisons and probation.

Transport
Those who will keep air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the Covid-19 response.

Utilities, communication and financial services
Staff required to keep oil, gas, electricity, water and sewerage operations running. Staff in the civil nuclear, chemical and telecommunications sectors. Those in postal services and those working to provide essential financial services.

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Coronavirus: How to help kids cope with life without school

BBC reports that children across the UK will be off school for an indefinite period of time because of coronavirus. Some are likely to be anxious, so how can parents help them cope?

No school for the "foreseeable" future. Exams off. Clubs closed.

Millions of children will be looking forward to a spring, and possibly a summer, free of responsibility and routine. But these are not normal times - they're likely to have to spend days and nights indoors with parents or guardians.

They won't get much personal contact with friends and, for teenagers, the cancellation of exams will make a difficult time of year even more worrying.

"It's the perfect storm for parents and children," says Sam Cartwright-Hatton, professor of clinical child psychology at the University of Sussex.

"It's not just the fact that they're going to be cooped up together. Emotions are also going to be super-stressed because - on top of what young people are feeling - parents are worried about jobs, food supplies, paying the next mortgage bill."

Consistent routine

As households begin this forced experiment in enclosed living, Prof Cartwright-Hatton advocates setting a clear routine, particularly for younger children - such as a couple of hours of school work in the morning or a specified time for craft work in the afternoon.

She argues that pre-teenage children "turn inwards quite quickly" if they spend too much time alone.
Parents should play with them and encourage those of an adventurous nature to regard the situation as an "adventure". This approach won't work for the more sensitive children who will need extra reassurance.

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