Five top tips for working at home efficiently and maintaining your mental health

remote working and mental health Many companies have adapted to the Coronavirus lockdown measures by asking staff to work remotely from home, but how do you do this efficiently and also protect your mental health?
Much as we love them, a prolonged period stuck in one place with our families can sometimes be stressful, especially if remote workers are combining working with home schooling their children.
Of course, another complication can be the facilities and space available at home, where cramped conditions can add to the stress of trying to work efficiently while staying healthy.
Here are some tips to help you maintain you mental health and efficiency:

  1. Discipline and routine are important: Creating and following a timetable of tasks and activities gives structure to the day, and on that note it is much easier to get into “work” mode if you can work at a desk or table and if you don’t do it in your pyjamas!

Lists are also useful, not least because if you break down your day’s work into tasks and complete them, there is a great deal of satisfaction and a sense of achievement to be gained by ticking items off when completed.

  1. Variety: You should include other activities and what psychologists call micro-lifts into the structure of your timetable. In the normal working day when you are going into work in an office, you may be in the habit of picking up a coffee on the way in, or maybe have a regular break for a few minutes at the coffee machine at work for a chat with friends. Don’t underestimate the importance of giving your brain a few minutes’ rest.

It is also important to take regular breaks from a screen if your work is mostly being done on a computer/laptop.

  1. A healthy diet: It is tempting to snack more when you are working from home, but this may mean that your diet is less healthy and that is not good for either your physical or mental health.  This relates also to the importance of having discipline and a routine that builds meal breaks based on a healthy diet into your timetable.
  2. Exercise and fresh air: These are also important for physical and mental health albeit they are restricted to the social isolation rules that allow for one hour of outdoors exercise per day. You would be likely to get that during a day at the office, by walking from transport to the office building or going out during your lunch hour. If you are working from home and have children with you, involving them is a great way of treating exercise as a family activity while at the same giving children the opportunity to burn off excess energy.
  3. Try to get at least seven hours’ sleep: Sleep is a major component of mental health and of working efficiently especially when in a time of crisis.

The secret of working at home efficiently is in many ways intimately connected with your mental health.
For many people this will be a new way of working and you may find that it takes a good deal of self-discipline and organisation to maintain your productivity, but if you follow the guidelines in this blog you will find that you can settle into a routine that enables you to carry out your work tasks as well as the other demands on your time that come from being in your home with family around you.

Banks, Lenders & Investors Cash Flow & Forecasting General

Productivity, working hours and health – time for a new approach?

happiness and workers' productivityProductivity, and how to improve it, is a perennial concern for the UK’s SME managers.
The country’s woeful productivity when compared with other countries has long been an issue for businesses, albeit it improved in the first six months of this year according to ONS (Office for National Statistics) figures.
Productivity is traditionally measured by the amount of work produced per worker, per working hour, but new thinking suggests that we are measuring it all wrongly.
In an article in entitled Are we measuring productivity all wrong the economics and productivity expert at UWE, Professor Don Webber is quoted as arguing that productivity is measured by dividing gross value added (GVA) by the number of hours of work but that until the financial crash of 2008 GVA had been disproportionately boosted by the financial services sector.
There are three components to increasing productivity, he says. They are the ability to push down costs, push up prices and sell more units.
But he says the calculation is far more complex in a consumer economy like the UK, where austerity has had an impact on the ability to buy goods and services, and not enough attention is paid to such elements as investment in more efficient systems, tools and working conditions.
Indeed, I would argue that national productivity measurement based on macro data masks the huge productivity gains made by many firms and especially those who have invested in automation, robotics, AI and new machinery. Consider the comparison of two measures of productivity and how they might show significant improvement; the first is sales by square feet in a Lidl or Aldi, both shops that stock the shop floor with pallets of goods; and the second is car manufacturers who might measure sales per worker where their factories are automated. It can be seen how the gig economy masks these productivity gain figures.
The Businessleader article also mentions some HSBC research, which found that workplace culture is a key factor to increasing productivity.
It found that businesses that offer employees the opportunity to work flexibly are more productive and that workers place flexibility ahead of financial incentives when asked about what motivates them the most.

Innovative solutions to improving productivity

In November, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell suggested that businesses that operated a four-day week without cutting pay could see improvements in staff morale, health and revenue. It may seem counter-intuitive but there is evidence from a number of bosses whose businesses have tried it that they are reaping rewards. The economist, Lord Skidelsky, has been asked to investigate the issue further.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently announced that, for the first time, work-related stress, anxiety and depression account for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in Great Britain. In total, 15.4m working days were lost in 2017-18 as a result, up from 12.5m the previous year.
The issue of businesses paying attention to their employees’ mental wellbeing as well as their physical health has consequently attained a higher profile. A growing number of major employers, including the bosses of Royal Mail, WH Smith, Thames Water and Ford of Britain have called on the Government to give mental health the same status as physical health in HSE legislation.
Clearly, it makes sense for businesses to review their policies and practices on working hours, mental and physical health support and training, where there are now so many options for using AI and smart technology to improve working practices and where it is becoming clearer that a happy, healthy and motivated workforce is a key to improved productivity.

Finance General Insolvency Rescue, Restructuring & Recovery Turnaround

Pressure at work – the good and the bad

woman suffering pressure from work overloadPressure at work has been argued to be a positive when it encourages people to perform to the absolute best of their abilities. It acts rather like “nerves” can aid an actor or athlete to give a good performance.
It contributes to increased productivity and can concentrate the mind in ways that result in innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems whereas insufficient pressure can lead to under-stimulation and boredom.
Pressure can affect bosses, managers and employees alike. Pressure can however, also have negative consequences.

Firstly, what types of negative pressure are there?

Negative pressure tends to be the result of excessive pressure such as when unreasonable demands are made.
Such demands might include the pressure to work longer and longer hours, but without a sense of worth or achievement from the extra work, a lack of prospects for development or promotion, unreasonable targets, a lack of support, financial and job insecurity, and many more examples.
Such pressure can be cultural, ie endemic throughout a business, or it can be down to individual management style. Essentially it is evidenced as management by fear and coercion to get results.
At its root, negative pressure makes individuals feel out of control and to feel that they are not able to influence their goals and how to achieve them.

The relationship between pressure and stress

Negative pressure manifests itself as ‘stress’ which in turn can be detrimental to health.
If pressure causes stress then the negative effects are likely to show in people’s behaviour although all too often this pressure can build internally without others being aware of it.
Irritability, a sense of isolation, feelings of lack of control or involvement in decision-making, extreme competitiveness and lack of an ability to work co-operatively with colleagues may all be signs of negative pressure.
None of these is helpful to mental health and ultimately a business will suffer if it does not have support systems in place to monitor and help staff.
Harnessing the power of positive pressure means a business needs realistic and achievable goals and needs to be aware of the impact of pressure on individual members of staff.
If these are not present, ultimately a business risks disengagement by staff which in turn risks the future survival of the business even when short term results are being achieved.
(Picture supplied by “Overwhelmed With Too Many Tasks” by marcolm)