Working from home mental health tips for you and your family
11 min read | Gaelle Blake and James Milligan | Article | Workplace Wellbeing
Working at home can have a strong impact on our mental health. The impact can be even bigger when juggling work with family responsibilities.
Working from home brings many benefits – but can also be very stressful. The increased freedom also brings the danger of letting our mental health become less of a priority.
If the Covid-19 pandemic showed us anything, it’s that we need to do what’s needed to improve our mental well-being. Start a new hobby, exercise more and spend time away from work.
Working from home with a family also brings a unique challenge. Not only do you have work commitments, but family commitments too. In this situation, taking practical steps to look after our mental health can sometimes fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to let our professional and parental responsibilities come first above our own well-being. Yet it’s vital we don’t neglect ourselves.
Working from home mental health tips at a glance
Since Covid, it has been heartening to see a renewed focus by organisations, the media and the government on the importance of looking after our mental health.
Working from home can be tough. Burnout is real, and if left unchecked, it will almost certainly have a negative impact on your work and family life.
To help, we’ve put together a list of suggestions to help support the well-being – of everyone in your house:
1. Healthy routines make for healthy minds
For some, a basic family schedule is important for good mental health.
When planning your routine, there are a few things you should factor in each week:
- ‘Busy’ time: every member of the household above a certain age should have time during which they complete work, schoolwork or work towards some other achievement. In completing these jobs, we create a healthy sense of purpose and feelings of accomplishment.
- ‘Relaxing’ time: this is time when you get to ‘switch off’ and do something that you enjoy without feeling guilty. Whether reading a book, taking a long bath or watching some TV – this kind of downtime is important to unwind. Other members of the family should try to respect each other’s ‘relaxing’ time – although parents of little ones will of course need to take it in shifts!
- ‘Chore’ time: Chores may not immediately spring to mind as an enjoyable activity, but they can play a surprisingly important part in ensuring good mental health. As the saying goes: ‘tidy home, tidy mind’. It’s also important that everyone pitches in, to prevent all of the housework falling on one member of the family.
- ‘Family fun’ time: Try to carve out time together as a family that is focused on a single activity. Why not take it in turns suggesting something you each might like to do: such as a board game evening, a day spent cooking a big family meal, a movie night (complete with cinema snacks!) or even asking your kids to prepare a quiz or a put on a play?
- ‘One-on-one’ time: If you have more than one child, try to allocate some quality time just for two of you. This might be especially important for older kids: whilst little ones require a lot of attention and support, it can be easy to forget that self-sufficient older kids and teenagers need to spend time with you too. Teenagers especially may need the privacy of one-on-one conversations to open-up about their feelings. Find something you like doing together and make it a daily or weekly occurrence – such as a long walk in the evening, baking together at the weekend, or a TV show you can watch together. You might find that these moments are the highlights of your week, too.
2. Keep checking in with each other – and with yourself
When it comes to fostering good work-from-home 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?’
Sometimes, it can be easy to forget that family members may be struggling with more worries or anxieties than you realise. Keep these conversations confidential and be careful not to 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, and show your kids that articulating their feelings calmly is healthy.
3. Respect physical boundaries…
Many full-time home-workers have realised the importance of having set ‘spaces’. Not only does sitting in a designated ‘work zone’ help you get into a productive frame of mind. 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. It's important to know that we have a safe, private place that is ‘ours’. Respect your children’s boundaries. Encourage siblings to knock on bedroom doors and teach each other that a shut door means alone time is needed.
4. …but know that others will be understanding if your two worlds cross paths
The risk of children interrupting virtual meetings or presentations may be a source of great stress for many parents. However, this is something that the vast majority of your colleagues will understand – in fact, many of them will be in the same boat as you.
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.
5. Keep active!
Exercise not only helps keep you physically healthy, but it also helps ensure you stay mentally healthy too. Exercise can make you feel more confident, help you concentrate and sleep better.
Try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week. Include your family when possible. Whether it’s a walk in a park, a spot of gardening, or even some vigorous housework, every little adds up.
6. Take your annual leave
Taking annual leave is incredibly important for your well-being. Try to take some time off from work whenever you need – it doesn’t have to mean leaving the country. Even if you can’t get away from home, you can make your house a holiday destination.
When on holiday, bear in mind the following:
- Don’t log on: you wouldn’t go into the office when you were on holiday, so try not to log on to your remote work or emails when on annual leave.
- Change up your household routine: on ‘holiday’, why not change things up so you and your family take a break from the norm? Perhaps let chores slide for a week, or allow slightly later bedtimes than usual?
- Explore the world from home: There are some ways you can satisfy some of your wanderlust without having to actually get on a plane. How about assigning each day of your annual leave with a holiday destination? On that day, immerse the family in ‘local’ cuisine, culture and regional books, movies and music.
7. Encourage kindness
Last, but by no means least, one thing we can all learn from the pandemic 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. Home working can lead to family relationships feeling a bit tested or strained at times – which is perfectly normal! But remember to cut each other some slack. Everyone copes with stress in different ways.
Remember that working from home offers quality time, bringing you closer as a family. Try to be kind to each other – and to yourself.
What you need to remember about our family work-from-home mental health tips
Working from home brings added freedoms and stresses. Recognise the potential difficulties and work to overcome them. The whole family will benefit.
For more advice on remote working from home with a family, download our guide, or to access more resources visit our Inspire Me in a New Era of Work Hub
About this author
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. In 2018, Gaelle started her current role as UK&I Director of Hays Permanent Appointments, where she works with 800 Permanent Appointments consultants across the UK and Ireland.
She helps organisations to find the talent they need to achieve their goals, and helps customers to find the roles they need to move their careers forwards. In July 2020, Gaelle was also appointed as UKI Director of Hays Construction & Property, leading the 300+ recruitment consultants in the largest specialist Construction & Property recruiter in the UK.
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.