March 22, 2020

Navigating the world of home working

The worrying circumstances we are faced with in the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, have forced a huge number of workers across the world to work from home – including the Navigate team.

Indeed, we are the lucky ones, as many are facing uncertain times with no option to work remotely. Therefore, we are trying to seek the positives in this situation and adjust to this new way of work as best we can. A good example of this is that 55% of commuters report increased stress due to their commute (RSPH, 2016), a stress which will now be alleviated. Additionally, 70% (Pizano, 2017, writing for Pow Wow Now) of workers feel that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them, and what could be more flexible than working from home? Being surrounded by home comforts may help to alleviate stress and anxiety for some employees, despite the realities of the pandemic occurring outside their front door.Nonetheless, 39% of those working from home report working additional hours, in comparison to 24% of those in fixed workplaces, without the routine and prompting from other members of the team triggering you to go home. This same article also reported that 32% of those who work from home found it hard to switch off at the end of the working day. This is likely the case for many types of business, however media is certainly an ‘always-on’ sort of job. There is always a live campaign which could be checked, or emails that could be replied to, or a multitude of other tasks that can be hard to switch off from at the best of times. This is all magnified when working from home, especially during social distancing/self-isolation, as there’s not even the offer of team drinks to tear you from your desk.As an industry it is important to recognise the effects that working from home may have on employees, especially over a prolonged period of time, and to try to encourage a healthy work-life balance. NABS (National Advertising Benevolent Society) are a great support for the agency as they provide access to an advice line, one to one mentoring, masterclasses, talks and networking events for all employees. The use of these resources is encouraged even further throughout this challenging time, alongside a few of the suggestions outlined below, to try and maintain a healthy balance of work and play.Get out of your pyjamasHadley Freeman, reporting for the Guardian, claims that the first rule of working from home is to never wear your pyjamas. Being in your pyjamas (or even worse, working in your bed), tells your brain and body that it is bedtime. As demonstrated by Pavlovian conditioning, putting on those pyjamas will trigger sleepiness and feelings of relaxation (rather than salivation at the sound of a bell), from years of association throughout your night-time routine. On the flipside of this, it is also important to keep your bedroom (and pyjamas) for sleeping and relaxing, so that your sleep pattern is not disrupted in addition to other elements of your normal routine. Some of the world’s leading sleep researchers such as Jing-wen He et al. (2020) advise not even keeping your phone in your bedroom, let alone your work laptop. They found that restricting mobile phone usage before bedtime for four weeks was effective in reducing sleep latency, increasing sleep duration, improving sleep quality, reducing pre-sleep arousal and improving both positive affect and working memory.Move your bodyEveryone knows that exercise is good for us, however it could be crucial to staying sane throughout the period of isolation. In addition to increasing blood flow to the brain (which in turn, leads to neurogenesis, the production of new neurons in the parts of the brain that control memory and learning (Van Praag, 2008)), exercise releases endorphins, which help to boost our mood. Mental health charity ‘Mind’ also advises exercising outside, as it has been shown to improve physical health and self-esteem and reduce feelings of stress and anger.Stay in contact with colleagues socially as well as professionallyThese are the people that you ordinarily would spend most of your time with, so their physical absence in your life will definitely be felt. The first week of working from home has already seen a few Navigator’s having digital coffee breaks together, which will certainly have helped to lift their spirits!Be mindful of social media usageWhilst some may find social media to be exacerbating their anxiety due to regular news updates, there have also been many choosing to use social media as a form of light entertainment. Research from Global Web Index has already seen a huge surge in social media usage, up 27% amongst Gen Z, 30% among Millennials, 29% among Gen X and 15% among Boomers. This comes in many forms, such as cheering yourself up with dog videos (they have no idea as to what is going on right now, apart from that their owners are now home all of the time), producing a TikTok dance with your spouse (or whoever else you are distancing with), video calling friends who you rarely have time to catch up with, or learning how to make a delicious meal with the random odds and ends in your cupboards.Wishing health and security to all during these tough times.Lauren Haynes, Account ExecutiveSources J-w, Tu Z-h, Xiao L, Su T, Tang Y-x (2020) Effect of restricting bedtime mobile phone use on sleep, arousal, mood, and working memory: A randomized pilot trial. PLoS ONE 15(2)Van Praag, H. (2008). Neurogenesis and exercise: past and future directions. Neuro-molecular medicine, 10 (2), 128-40.

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