Mental Health Awareness Week: Working from Home

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The Essential Connection: Regular Breaks, Desk Detachment, and Mental Well-being During Work from Home

A Mental Health Awareness Week Spotlight


Mental Health Awareness Week aims to provide a platform to focus on the often-overlooked aspects of our lives that contribute to our psychological and emotional well-being. This significant event, held annually, not only educates the public about mental health issues but also advocates for policies that support mental health care. As our working norms continually change, it’s paramount to explore the ways in which work trends are impacting our mental health. In this year’s spotlight, taking place from May 13th the theme focuses on movement for improved well-being.

This discussion shines a light on the influence of regular breaks and the practice of stepping away from the desk, highlighting the benefits these actions have for maintaining a healthy mind. Focusing on the rise of WFH trends and the mental health challenges it presents, the cognitive and physical gains from breaks, and strategies to integrate these into daily routines. By understanding and implementing these simple changes, we can work towards achieving better mental health and overall work/life balance.


The New Work-from-Home Reality

In recent years, an unprecedented surge in remote work has led to significant changes in working patterns and habits. Statistics show a substantial percentage of the workforce transitioning to remote work, a shift brought on by global events such as the pandemic. While this change presents benefits such as flexibility and savings on commute time, it also poses unique challenges. The dissolution of the physical boundary between work and home spaces can lead to prolonged hours in front of screens, a lack of physical activity, and the potential for overwork. These factors can contribute to a heightened risk of mental health issues like burnout, stress, and isolation.

Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, profoundly affecting how we think, feel, and act. For remote workers, typical mental health concerns include anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which can have detrimental effects not only on professional performance but also on personal relationships and quality of life.


The Science of Breaks and Mental Health

Taking regular breaks is scientifically proven to have many psychological and physiological benefits. Cognitive restoration helps to rejuvenate focus and attention, while stress reduction is crucial in mitigating the adverse effects of chronic pressure. Furthermore, engaging in breaks that include physical activities can curtail the risk of developing chronic diseases, aid in weight management, and enhance sleep quality, all of which have a knock-on effect on mental well-being. Expert testimony and studies recommend breaks every 90 minutes, with 5-minute short breaks and at least 30 minutes for lunch to be most effective.


The Importance of Physically Leaving Your Desk

A change of environment can have a drastic effect on mental state, creating a psychological boundary that helps to separate professional responsibilities from personal time. Stepping outside into sunlight and fresh air not only boosts vitamin D levels but is also known to improve mood and cognitive function. Implementations of ‘desk-free’ breaks in various companies have shown positive outcomes in employee satisfaction and productivity.

Organisations have a role to play in fostering a culture of well-being. Establishing official break policies, offering resources for mental health support, and encouraging practices such as mindfulness can go a long way in supporting employees. Providing flexible schedules allows for diverse work-life needs to be met, ultimately benefiting both the employer and the workforce in terms of health, satisfaction, and efficiency. We need to address the harmful ‘always-on’ work culture and the associated feelings of guilt when not working. It’s important to manage workloads effectively and set realistic expectations to consistently take breaks. Offering practical solutions to these common challenges is key to changing the current paradigm.

It is imperative that we all proactively incorporate these practices into our WFH routines, with a mindful appreciation for their importance. Let us take this Mental Health Awareness Week as a reminder to prioritise our mental health and to endorse self-care as an indispensable part of our work ethic.


Participate in Mental Health Awareness Week

For anyone looking to support mental health initiatives or get involved with activities during Mental Health Awareness Week, check out engagement/mental-health-awareness-week . Your advocacy and efforts can have a far- reaching impact.

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