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WORKING FROM HOME - the impact on mental health

  • 3 min read

By Guy Osmond

Unusually, I have similar experience to the current lockdown so here is a personal perspective.

I was staying with my brother in Houston, Texas when Hurricane Harvey landed in 2017. By the time I arrived, shops and restaurants had already closed and, by the following morning, only very large stores were open.

Within hours, supermarket shelves were bare and we were on an island about 3 miles in diameter. Flood water blocked roads in all directions. Thousands of people were stranded upstairs in their homes. The overwhelming power of water was in evidence everywhere and it was frustrating to feel so helpless.

Although the situation was very different, there were very obvious parallels between those circumstances and the current scenario. We were isolated (comparatively speaking). We felt helpless. My niece’s friend went to the supermarket with her father and could not get home again. My brother, a senior oil and gas executive, was in conference calls discussing how crews had to remain on rigs in the Gulf and personnel and resources could not be mobilised because they were stranded or blocked by the floods.

I was staying in an affluent area but being housebound was stifling and draining. Million dollar homes had been flooded within a year of being built. Affluence did not stop the power cuts. Affluence did not restock the supermarket shelves. Nothing was more powerful than the flood water.

Whilst not pretending to be any sort of expert, I can therefore begin to understand how the current lockdown, with the inevitable lack of preparedness by most employers, its indeterminate duration and restrictions on movement, will certainly be frustrating at the very least and overwhelming at worst.

I have written elsewhere about the physical health issues we are already observing and experts warn us that mental health will be an even bigger issue. I have added below a few personal ideas to stay strong but we have also partnered with Champion Health to offer a more structured and long-term solution to worker wellbeing. The relevance is not restricted to home workers but the current pandemic adds urgency to the need for action.

The service offer comes in two parts.

For immediate action, you can provide your colleagues with free access to Online Mental Health Training. This unique online course enables participants to learn about self-care and healthy working at home; boosting resilience; understanding stress, anxiety and depression and supporting others. It is free for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the longer term, the Champion Health portfolio also includes a simple, online health assessment tool. This digital survey tool enables all personnel within an organisation to complete a short questionnaire that reviews physical, mental and lifestyle health. They alone receive their instant, confidential personal report but the employer accumulates anonymised group data that will inform the corporate wellbeing programme.

No more random initiatives or well-meaning programmes based on guesswork and good intentions!

With the data acquired, employers can focus resources on the areas that really need attention, ensuring maximum benefit for staff and maximum ROI for the organisation. To find out more, just complete this short form.

Finally, as the lockdown continues through and beyond Easter, here are a few personal tips for keeping your spirits up.

  • Remember the importance of biophilia. Take full advantage of your daily exercise to pay attention to nature. Even if you are city-based and your exercise options are restricted, look more closely at the trees, listen for the birds and observe those living things that you never usually notice.
  • Look at the night sky too. As I write this, there is a full moon casting shadows through the trees of my garden. We have had many clear evenings recently and now is the time to rediscover – or observe for the first time – the infinite fascination of the stars, constellations and planets.
  • Mow the lawn if you have one. Our local council recycling centre is now closed and we have nowhere in the garden for a compost heap. Mowing the grass three times a week means you don't need to collect the cuttings, it is good exercise and you can't beat the smell of new-mown grass.
  • Laugh! If your WhatsApp Inbox is not providing enough humour, try Laughter Yoga.

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