15 Aug 2022

Things to focus on when working from home during Covid-19

Workplace expert  from HSE advises on protecting your health and wellbeing while working from home

Kilkenny Kilkenny Kilkenny

Working from home

For the last number of weeks and months we’ve all taken steps to mind ourselves and each other, to flatten the curve, to protect our health service and frontline workers and save lives. 

We’ve been doing really well. Our actions have reduced the impact of COVID-19 on the country and our health service.

Many of us are working from home these days, and that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future.  Working from home can be challenging but there are some simple steps to take to hold firm and protect your health and well-being.

Also, its important to seek advice from your employer.  If you haven’t done so already, ask them for a copy of their ‘remote working policy’.  If they don’t have one it’s about time they did!

Keep your work routine

Try to keep to your usual daily routine.  Get to bed and get up at the same time as you usually do. 

You won’t have much of a commute these days – think about something you want to do with that time.  It could be playing with the kids, listening to a podcast or going for a walk in the morning. 

Of course, with children off school or other housemates around this is easier said than done but it's important for everyone in the household that they know the routine. 

Also, try set some boundaries.  Your work is important, you need to concentrate and be away from distractions.  Make sure everyone in the house knows your working hours and how to respect you when you are working.

Set boundaries and disconnect

Try keep to your regular working hours.  If you normally start at 9 am for instance keep that going.  If you usually look forward to a tea break at 11 am don’t change that. 

These days some people working from home may feel pressure to work during the time they are usually commuting to their job.  Remember, you’re not paid for your commute time.  Beforehand you might have used that time to listen to podcasts, check in with friends or do a bit of daydreaming.  That’s perfectly reasonable so keep that up.

Also, remember to disconnect.  If you finish work at say 5 pm that’s the working day done.  In most cases, there shouldn’t be an expectation that you are available/online outside your normal working hours. 

Don’t fall into the trap of being ‘always on’.  These are tough times.  We need time away from work to connect with family and friends, to have quality time with children and to get a break for ourselves.  Make sure you don’t let work creep into your vital personal time.

Work environment

You may not have the perfect workplace or equipment, but get a supportive chair, or consider a stand-up desk.

Find a space away from the main home area if possible. If you can, move your desktop to a place that has plenty of sunlight. Find spaces in your home where you can move around during the day, even if it just means taking a call from your phone somewhere other than at your desk.

Regular breaks and exercise

Every 25 minutes or so get up and stretch, go outside, go up and down the stairs, anything to move your body.

Taking breaks is good for your sanity and also ensures you are resting your eyes from sitting in front of a computer. You could schedule the breaks in your daily calendar to remind you.

It also important to take proper meal breaks – away from the laptop – during the working day.  This can be hard but even if you are working at the kitchen table, close the laptop and put it away when you are having your lunch or another meal.  The world can wait for an hour while you give yourself a break and have a decent meal.

Keeping in touch with friends and colleagues

We all need to talk to others and are used to chatting to colleagues in the workplace.

These days that’s different, but it’s probably even more important.  Make sure to take the time to keep these friendships going when working from home.  Take the time to check in with your colleagues, and not just about work, see how their family is doing, and how they are coping.  It can really matter. 

If you manage people this is particularly important.  Let your team know that their health and well being is important at this time, not just their output.  And don’t do this by email, it’s too associated with work practices – pick up the phone or schedule a video chat.

Ask for support

Before coronavirus, many of us rarely worked from home.  In recent weeks we’ve learned to ‘make do’.

However, if your employer is now planning for an extended working from home period then ask them for support.  This could involve a good work station, employer-funded wifi, help with stress or burn out.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Your employer has a duty of care to you.

If you are a member of a trade union they’ll have advice on how to approach this.  If not, talk to colleagues to find out what people will need if they are working from home over the coming months.

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