To categorise 2020 as a ‘stressful year for most people’ would be an understatement.
Some have been ‘shielding’, separated from their friends and loved ones. Some have been placed on furlough whilst others have seen an increase in their normal day-to-day workload. It’s likely that every one of us has struggled – at least to some degree – with the phenomenal changes wrought by coronavirus on our usual routines.
Considering how isolating being under lockdown can feel, it has been heartening to see a renewed focus by organisations, the media and government on the importance of looking after our mental health since the pandemic began.
However, for those of us working from home with kids, taking practical steps to look after our mental health can sometimes fall by the wayside – juggling our professional and parental responsibilities can leave us with scarce time to think about our own wellbeing.
Yet it is absolutely vital we don’t neglect this. Burnout is real, and if left unchecked, it will almost certainly have a negative impact on your work and family life. So, we’ve put together a list of suggestions to help support the wellbeing of everyone in your house, which parents who are working from home may want to try:
We have suggested a basic family schedule you might want to use in our previous blog, but as a reminder: a good routine is important for good mental health.
When planning your routine, there a few things you should factor in each week:
When it comes to fostering good mental health, effective communication is crucial. Try to remember to ask each of your family members every week: ‘How are you feeling at the moment?’ With everything going on, it can be easy to forget that as a result of the tumultuous times we are living through, some of your family members may be struggling with more worries or anxieties than you realise. Keep these conversations confidential and be careful not judge: just listen, and ask what you can do to help them.
Equally, it’s important to ensure you are checking with yourself – how are you feeling and why? What do you need to improve your mood when you are feeling ‘low’? Talk about your feelings – it will help your family understand your current emotional state, help your children understand that articulating their feelings calmly is healthy and to be encouraged, and help you take charge of your own wellbeing.
Since lockdown was announced and many of us began working from home full time, we have realised the importance of having set ‘spaces’ dedicated to work. Not only does sitting in a designated ‘work zone’ help you get into a productive frame of mind, but it also signals to your family that you are at work and therefore shouldn’t be disturbed if at all possible.
We all need these kinds of personal spaces – especially now, when we are all spending more time with each other than ever before, and don’t have our usual time apart. It's important to know that we have a safe, private place that is ‘ours’. Respect your children’s boundaries, encourage siblings to always knock on bedroom doors and try to teach each other that a shut door means alone time is needed.
The risk of children interrupting virtual meetings or presentations may be a source of great stress for many parents – particularly if you have very young children or there are two working parents who both need to be on calls at the same time. However, you need to remember that in light of the current circumstances, this is something that the vast majority of your colleagues will be understanding about – in fact, many of them will be in the same boat as you! In order to set your mind at ease before calls, it may be easier to simply be honest and explain the situation to everyone at the beginning of your call – you might even want to virtually introduce your children to trusted colleagues, should you feel it is appropriate.
Exercise not only helps keep you physically healthy, but it also helps ensure you stay mentally healthy too – not least because it can make you feel more confident, help you concentrate and sleep better. Whether it’s a walk in a park, a spot of gardening, or even some vigorous housework, you and your family should try to do at least 30 minutes exercise, 5 times a week.
Taking annual leave is important for your wellbeing, so you should try to take some time off from work. However, annual leave right now may not look like the usual sunny, sandy break you are used to! Instead, your house will not only be where you all live, work and go to school – it will also be your holiday destination.
When planning for this new kind of ‘holiday’, bear in mind the following:
Last, but by no means least, one thing we can all learn from 2020 is the importance of being kind to one another. Treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves and try to be understanding of each other’s personal struggles.
At home, try to foster this atmosphere of kindness. The current circumstances can lead to some family relationships feeling a bit tested or strained at times – which is perfectly normal! But remember to cut each other some slack and be mindful that everyone copes with stress in different ways. Try to remind yourself and each other that one of the few silver linings to this challenging time is a period of quality time that is unlikely to come around again, which can bring you closer as a family if you all work towards this goal.
If we all try to support each other, then we can make a real difference to our collective wellbeing. So: be kind to each other – and to yourself.
For more advice on remote working with a family, download our guide, or to access a host of resources for helping you adapt to the new way of working, visit our Inspire Me in a New Era of Work Hub. As your lifelong career partner, we are with you every step of the way and will be updating this site regularly with new guides, blogs and information to support you.
Gaelle joined Hays in 1999 and in her time with the business she has led dedicated teams providing expert recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions, with a particular focus on construction and property. In 2018 she was appointed the Director for Permanent Recruitment, working across Hays UK and Ireland to improve business performance, drive best practice and shape Hays’ value proposition to both clients and candidates.
James is Director of Hays IT, Digital Technology and Project Solutions in the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Having joined in 2000, he is responsible for the strategy of Hays’ Project Solutions, IT and Digital Technology businesses, which includes IT contracting, permanent technology recruitment, resource augmentation and statement of work solutions across both the private and public sectors.
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