Lockdown has taken a noticeable toll on the Australian workforce. According to our online poll, 44% of professionals say their mental health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic. Luckily, there are tips you can use to significantly improve your health and wellbeing at work, even when working from home.

Matt Robinson (Corporate Learning Manager at Robert Half) hosted a panel for the fourth instalment of our ongoing Your Future webinar series. Special guests included Lucile Allen-Paisant (founder of Leeds Wellbeing Week and Director of Mind It Ltd), Heather Darwall-Smith (Sleep therapist at The London Sleep Centre) Dr Philippa Spencer (Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, member of the International Society for Coaching Psychology) and Claire Blissitt (Director and Executive Coach at Get Unstuck).

Together, they discussed how to establish healthy habits, how to recognise unhelpful habits, and confidence-building tactics.

Webinar: YOU - Wellbeing

1) Maintain your work-life balance

Without a commute or dedicated office working space to help partition work from home life, there’s a danger that your work-life balance will be damaged.

Heather says, “There’s definitely a sense of people not necessarily finishing work at five thirty. It's becoming a slide into, ‘I’m at home, so I may as well work for a couple more hours’. Everything is sliding together.”

Try to stick to the office hours you kept before lockdown to make sure you aren’t overworking. You may even find it helpful to turn your phone notifications off.

2) Release what you can’t control

The pandemic has stripped structure and stability from many people’s lives, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and helpless. You can protect your wellbeing by learning to let go of the things you aren’t able to change.

“There's an exercise that I call ‘the circle of control’, that can be a decision-making tool to deal with stress,” says Lucile.

“Whenever you identify a stressful situation or stress factor, the first question to ask yourself is, ‘do I have control over it?’. If the answer is no, then, as difficult as it might sound, we need to try our best to let it go, or to consider it as an illegitimate source of stress right now.”

3) Focus on the key areas of wellbeing

Philippa recommends developing a strategy which focuses on the five key areas of wellbeing, so no matter what’s fallen out of alignment, a fix will feel easier to identify and achieve.

  • Physical activity - Whether it's a gentle daily walk or training for a marathon, get your heart rate up for thirty minutes a day.
  • Social connections - Our social relationships offer us protection from stress and anxiety, so try to maintain contact with friends and family on a regular basis.
  • Personal growth - Keep your mind active by continuing to learn new things and build new neural pathways. It’ll boost your confidence and self-esteem!
  • Self-awareness - You'll be more resilient and more able to manage anxiety when you can dial into your surroundings and bring yourself into the present moment.
  • Generosity - Research shows that people who show support, compassion and kindness to others are happier, healthier, and more resilient.

4) Protect your sleep pattern

Sleep is essential for good health and wellbeing and should occupy about a third of our day over a 24-hour period. Failing to keep to a routine can impact your quality of sleep which has a knock-on effect in other areas of life.

Heather says, “structure is really important because without it, the body doesn't quite know where it stands.”

She recommends creating a good wind-down routine at the end of the day, which includes turning off your phone, turning the lights down (or reducing blue light exposure) and then going to bed/getting up at the same time every day.

Philippa agrees: “the benefits are so profound from good sleep ¬— it's one of the few things in life that is totally free!”

5) Identify your bad habit cues

When you’re confined to the house, it’s easy to fall into unhelpful habits. Whilst these might make you feel better in the short term, ultimately they undermine wellbeing: drinking too much, sleeping in, smoking excessively, becoming absorbed in our phones or with gaming.

There are four stages of thought behind a habit, and it’s helpful to know what they are so you can start the process of breaking them for good.

“With any habit there's always a cue, or some kind of trigger, which is something that's initiating the particular behaviour,” Claire says.

“That then leads to a craving, which is the change in state that you're trying to achieve. And then there's the response which is the actual habit and then there's the reward which satisfies the craving.”

6) Use marginal gains to measure self-improvement

Replacing old habits with new can often feel like an unachievable feat. This is because the brain focuses on the discrepancy between where you are now and where you want to be, rather than the progress you’ve made so far.

“Identify your goal and work out what is the first step you can take, who can help keep you motivated and then start and keep going just 1% marginal gain a day,” says Philippa. “Research tells us that if we sustain a behaviour change for six weeks, it's much more likely to become a long-term change.”

Try writing your objectives down — research shows you’ll be more likely to achieve them when they’re visible in front of you!

7) Get what you need from your employer

Whether you’re a candidate or a long-term employee, it’s useful to understand which wellbeing resources are available to you through your employer.

Lucile suggests looking out for three things: the culture towards wellbeing (specifically from management), your fit with other team members, and the employee support structures already in place.

Claire says, “the starting point is really understanding what wellbeing means to me before I start thinking about it from an employer’s perspective. How does it fit with my values? What am I going to need?

How do wellbeing and job fulfilment connect to one another? How will I know if I’ve got it right?”

When you know what you need on a personal level and have an understanding of what’s available to you, you can begin to bridge the gap — if any — and make sure your health and wellbeing at work remain good.