9th April 2020
As part of our series for Stress Awareness Month throughout April we are posting a collection of articles offering advice on how we can manage our stress whilst working from home. This is particularly important during the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, because prior to this only 5% of us worked primarily from home, whereas now the majority of the working population do.
Therefore most of us are not used to this, and this in itself can be stressful. So, throughout the month we will be examining a different topic and seeing how we can manage the related stress. Last week we looked at routine, today we are looking at our workspace.
Your workspace is very important to your mental health while working from home, but can also be the biggest challenge to get right. In an ideal situation, it will be a quiet room away from any communal areas of your home but not your bedroom. But not everyone has the luxury of space, and if your home is not geared up for remote working then it may be that you have to commandeer a dining or dressing table.
If this is the case, do not fear. You will make it work.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Primarily, your chair must be comfortable and supportive, allowing you to sit at the correct height for the surface you are using. It won’t be long before you notice back, neck, leg, and arm problems if you are uncomfortable. You may also need to make adjustments to the height of your screens to ensure your eyes are looked after. Do not hesitate to let your employer know if you need them to help you to get the right equipment for this. The NHS has some excellent instructions about how to set up your workspace for a healthy body and mind.
De-clutter your desk to de-clutter your brain
Aesthetics are important too. Scientific studies conducted by UCLA found a direct link between “a high density of household objects” (that’s clutter to you and me) and the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol fuels your fight or flight instinct and works with your brain to control mood, motivation and fear. Therefore, it is important to take some time to make your workspace clear of items that neither contribute to the functioning of the space or add to your general wellbeing when you are in the space.
A simple way to improve our workspace is to add a houseplant or two to the area. Doing so adds a personal touch to the space, which can be motivating and cheering in itself. But also, studies show that indoor plants provide psychological and physical health benefits to us, including:
- Improved mood
- Increased productivity
- Reduced blood pressure (a common and sometimes dangerous side effect of stress)
- Reduced fatigue and headaches
- Reduced stress levels
Some plants even have very specific associated health benefits that can help to solve a particular issue you may have. Did you know that:
- Aloe vera can improve skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, be rubbing the soothing gel inside a leaf onto the affected area
- Sansevieria removes toxins in the home, improving air quality and helping you to get a better night’s sleep – very important for managing stress
- Spider plants battle carbon monoxide (though should not be used in place of a carbon monoxide alarm, as they will not alert you of a leak!)
- Boston fern increases humidity, which will benefit those with dry skin, noses or throats
- Peace lilies combat benzene and can remove mould spores from the air
Let there be light
Poor lighting has a number of associated health problems, including eye strain, headaches, fatigue, anxiety and stress. Natural light is preferable, so if you can set your desk area up near a window, particularly one with a nice view so you can benefit from greenery as mentioned above, this is preferable.
Benefits of natural sunlight include:
- Boosted vitamin D absorption
- Warding off the risk of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder, something we have previously blogged about)
- Improved sleep
The latter point about sleep is especially important in relation to stress, as we all know how stressful tossing and turning as you struggle to get to sleep can be. Sitting in a bright, naturally lit area can aid sleep, in turn avoiding the associated stress of tiredness.
The NHS offers advice on how to address a lack of light that is in turn affecting your mood.
Don’t forget to read last week’s Stress Awareness Month blog about the importance of routine whilst working from home, and keep an eye out for our next entry coming soon.