March 19, 2020
Mental health tips for working from home
Over the past week, our community has shown great capacity to adapt and pivot during the ever-changing circumstances that have come from the COVID-19 outbreak. UCalgary supports faculty and staff who make the decision to work from home for the safety of themselves and the community.
While preparing to work remotely involves a number of logistical considerations which can be found in detail here, it is important to also consider the mental health effects of a new work environment. Our community is adjusting to unprecedented events, which quite naturally raise concerns and levels of anxiety for everyone.
We’ve outlined some key tips below to help you work from home in a healthy way.
The largest hurdle to face when working from home is a feeling of isolation. Extended periods of time alone, especially when you’re not used to it, can leave you feeling anxious, uneasy and lonely. These feelings can be compounded by our current circumstances.
“Make a point of speaking with at least one person on your team each day,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD, director of the Campus Mental Health Strategy. “Take time to connect with co-workers on a personal level, the same way you would if you were at the office — those extra moments go a long way.”
Szeto also suggests enabling your camera while in online meetings, so you can see familiar faces. UCalgary’s Skype for Business or Zoom software can be downloaded through the Self-Service app or by making a request through IT. You can use these to connect with co-workers with messaging, audio or video calls, which are easier and more efficient than sending emails.
Structure your routine
Staying on top of getting ready in the morning helps you start your day refreshed and gets you into a more productive mindset — it also prepares you for any unexpected video calls! Many people who work from home advise to set daily goals, eat at regular times, get consistent sleep, and most important, to separate work time from home time. During office hours, try to stay in your work mindset, but allow yourself to take breaks and enjoy the perks of being at home by catching up on small household tasks.
It can also be helpful to create a physical separation from your workday and personal life. Instead of a commute, try taking a short walk around the block at the beginning and end of your workday to signal that separation.
Exercising can significantly lower anxiety levels, and boost serotonin — and there are plenty of ways to exercise at home. From simple stretching throughout the day, to morning exercises with free apps like Asana Rebel, Daily Workouts, and Seven – 7 Minute Workout, you can get your energy flowing and feel refreshed without leaving the house.
Spending time in nature is also sometimes referred to as ‘ecotherapy’ because it has been linked to lower blood pressure and stress hormones. During off-hours, take some time to visit a local park or drive to a favorite hiking destination to take in the outdoors and get some fresh air, while keeping your distance from others.
Switch off at the end of the day
Working from home can often blur the line between home and work life, which makes it hard to disconnect from work-related tasks at the end of the day. Be sure to make a clean break from your email and work phone after work hours and enjoy more leisurely activities. It is also a good idea to discuss the boundaries of work and personal time with your leader and team.
With ever-changing news and social media updates, it may also be helpful to reach for a mindfulness app rather than your Facebook or Instagram app. Some helpful and easy to use apps include Headspace, Calm and Stop, Breathe & Think.
Reach out to your support systems
Healthy relationships with family, friends and loved ones are vital to your own mental well-being during this time. Be sure to check in with them on a regular basis, just as you would with your colleagues.
At UCalgary, we are still here to support you, even if you’re not on campus. Mental health services and supports are available for students, faculty and staff.
Faculty and Staff
- Staff Wellness: 403-220-2918. A mental health consultant is available by phone or email
- Staff Wellness resources to navigate change
- Lifeworks is UCalgary's Employee and Family Assistance Program provider for benefit-eligible employees. Call toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to book appointments or access immediate help: 1-866-424-0699
- Student Wellness Services: 403-210-9355, including remote and telephone connections
- Online wellness learning
Support for those at risk of domestic or dating violence
Women’s Resource Centre: Peer support
- Support can be accessible by email and through Zoom/Skype appointments
Faith and Spirituality Centre
- Learn more about their growing online engagement options
- For 24/7 crisis counselling, speak with a crisis counsellor from the Wood’s Homes’ Community Resource Team (403-299-9699), or a highly trained volunteer at the Distress Centre (403-266-4357)
- If you are in danger and/or have safety concerns about a situation involving imminent risk of harm, call 9-1-1
- If you need immediate health-care advice, call 8-1-1
- For community, social and government-based services, call 2-1-1
UCalgary resources on COVID-19
For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.