How has technology impacted our mental health during COVID-19?
The importance of safeguarding our mental health whilst working remotely
Many of us have already settled into working remotely having been doing so, in some cases, since March. Even so, meetings, training courses and events continue to be swapped from the warm and friendly face-to-face settings to the distant glare of a computer screen. Whilst the increased use of technology has enabled us to carry on with our work, we may notice that something feels different.
What are we missing out on by conducting all our meetings via our computers?
Firstly, you might think that sitting at your kitchen table in your pyjamas is an easy way to attend a meeting, but research suggests that video conferencing is actually more mentally demanding than face-to-face meetings. This is due to the various challenges of video calls, including trying to identify who is speaking, detecting movement, coordinating eye-contact, turn-taking, conversation pacing, the stress felt when you lose connection and heightened self-awareness, especially when the camera is turned on.
Secondly, using technology to attend meetings can result in us having a tendency to over schedule and overwork ourselves. Our diaries are no longer filled with travel time between meetings and we can’t just nip to the kitchen to make a cuppa and have a chat with a colleague. So, it’s easy to fill this time up with more appointments instead. Whilst initially this may make you feel very productive, it is also likely to leave you feeling overworked and fatigued. This is because this doesn’t allow for you to incorporate regular breaks and social contact into your schedule so there’s no time to decompress and process your day.
Additionally, since video calling and email apps can be installed on our phones, it can be very hard to switch off after the work day has finished. Working at home can lead to feeling like you’re essentially living at work rather than working from home. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to schedule in some more breaks and come up with a plan to put in some more boundaries between your work and home life.
So how do we go about adapting to the ‘new normal’ of working remotely whilst still safeguarding our own mental health? We’ve included some suggestions below for you to consider:
Build social times into your meetings. Try to set aside the first or last 10 minutes of a virtual team meeting for some unstructured social chat. This will mimic the time you would have spent making a coffee together before heading into the meeting and allow you a sense of social interaction and break from work before heading into your next appointment.
Block out 5 minutes before and after virtual appointments to ensure you give yourself a break and have a mental rest. Maybe use this time to get up and stretch or make yourself a drink.
Consider conducting some meetings with your cameras turned off. This will help to reduce the cognitive load of the call and may feel less tiring.
Practise self-compassion. Listen to your mind and body and take a break when you need to.
Ask yourself this, is the ‘new normal’ making you feel like you’re “working at home”, or “living at work”? If your answer is the latter, it might be time to change up your routine.
Don’t forget to utilise the support and resources on our dedicated health and wellbeing site. There is lots on information on improving your mental wellbeing: https://wearenchc.nhs.uk/wellbeing/mental/
Assistant Psychologist, NCH&C
Assistant Psychologist, NCH&C