Mental health and wellbeing – staying sane when working remotely

Posted 23/03/2020 by 9a4fa0b2-a68f-44ca-95b6-a2b900c1471a

Rachel Cox

by Rachel Cox, Vitae Engagement and Policy Project Manager

Last week, as I was about to leave for work I got a call from my manager. She told me that as per our business continuity plan, I should work from home for the day. 

I usually work from home one day a week anyway, so what was one more day? Except that’s not where my head was at. My brain was halfway down the road to work, getting stuck in traffic, thinking about catching up with colleagues, grabbing a coffee, interacting 'in real life’.  

I wasn’t mentally prepared for two days in a row at home, let alone longer. 

It’s important for your health and wellbeing to mentally prepare for timeworking in isolation the best you can, so I wanted to share tips that have worked for me, and invite you to share your own

Man working from home


  • Find a space - to get into a working mindset you’ll need to set up your environment ready to work. Preferably choose a room without a TV in it, the fewer distractions the better. For me, it’s the kitchen. If you don’t have a home office, or space for a desk, set up on your dining table, make sure you have a power supply and internet connectivity. 
  • Get comfortable - you’re going to be sitting in that chair all day, so make sure it’s comfortable one. If you only have a dining chair, grab a couple of cushions to prop you up, your future self will thank you for it. Take the time to stretch occasionally and move out of the chair, why not take a call standing up and moving around, rather than sat at the desk? 
  • Be organised - Book things in your calendar, block out time to focus on specific tasks and give yourself goals to aim for to stay productive. Consider adding alerts to break up the day ‘take a break or ‘have a cuppa’. Mini breaks help you avoid working through lunch or late into the evening. 
  • Stay hydrated - make sure you drink enough. It’s a simple thing, but easy to forget if there’s no one there to remind you. How about keeping a bottle of water of a defined size next to you, so that you know once you've finished it that you're done for the day? 
  • Stay active - Move around at lunch time even if it’s just a 10 minute walk around the garden (doing laundry also counts). Open some windows to get some fresh air in your lungs! If you’ve got stairs try running up and down a few times, it will get the blood flowing and you’ll feel energised to take on the next task. YouTube has some snappy exercise routines to suit all styles. Also, look out for ‘live’ classes and be part of a new growing community.  
  • Keep in touch - Skype/video where possible so that you get some human interaction during your day. Even if it’s just to chat during ‘virtual lunch’, social connections are really important for your wellbeing. You can also join us ‘virtually’ for our homeworking #vitaechat on Thursday 26 March
  • Shut your laptop/desktop down at the end of the day - this will help to prevent you from nipping back to check later in the evening. Similarly disable email on your phone, so you don't feel tempted to keep working from the sofa.
  • Be kind – to yourself and to others. Not everything will be possible to recreate in a homeworking environment and it may take some trial and error even for the things that are possible. Allow yourself time to find your own routine and ways of working.
Working from home is all about boundaries and balance. If you get it right, it can be very rewarding and productive. But take care and be mindful that you don't allow bad habits to slip in. Above all, make sure you keep in contact with your manager and feed back if you feel your wellbeing is compromised so that they can support you as appropriate.

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