Enhancing your experience of working from home during COVID-19

20 May 2020

Six tips from the Disability Ability Wellness Network (DAWN).

Many of us are working from home for the first time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of us will thrive, while others may struggle with the isolation and lack of structure. In this article, the Disability Ability Wellness Network (DAWN) – Life Without Barriers support group for staff with disability, chronic health and mental health conditions – shares 6 tips to make working from home for people with disability a bit easier. As you’ll see, these tips are good for everyone.

1. Follow Your Normal Routine

The transition to working from home can be extremely difficult for people with mental health conditions such as anxiety or claustrophobia. Keeping a daily routine is critical to help manage stress levels and feel more in control.

While it may be tempting to sleep in, try to wake up at the same time each day – it will make the transition back to the office post-coronavirus easier. If you have a disability which can result in fatigue, using your former commute time to get more sleep can be beneficial, but once you’re up, continue with your normal routine.

2. Get Dressed

People prone to anxiety or depression may not feel motivated to get dressed each day, but what we wear has a significant influence on our psychological state. Getting dressed as though you’re heading into the office, can help you to feel fresh, confident and ready for the day ahead. It also lessens any embarrassment should an impromptu video meeting occur!

3. Create a Dedicated Workspace

Find a space in your home to work that is quiet, with plenty of light, and away from distractions (including household members who may add pressure if competing for your time). Ensure you have a suitable desk and chair, as you’ll likely be using them for longer periods of time.

4. Keep Moving

You are likely to get less incidental exercise working from home. We know that sitting at a desk for long periods of time is not healthy and for people with physical disabilities such as arthritis, it can cause significant joint pain. Regularly get up and move around to stretch, or follow a gentle YouTube exercise video. Try setting an alarm as a reminder to move or walk around your home while taking a phone call. You may feel more tired as you adjust to working from home, so taking breaks away from your desk can revive your body even if it’s just to stepping onto a balcony, courtyard or front lawn.

5. Remember to Eat and Drink

When working from home, people often forget to stop for drinks and/or lunch. Schedule break times into your day to refuel your body – especially if you have a health condition like diabetes that necessitates eating regularly – and make a point to move away from your desk for lunch. Be mindful of how much you eat and choose healthy options. Why not prepare your lunch and snacks before you start your day, as you would when working at the office, so you can easily see how much you’re eating?

6. Don’t Forget to Socialise (virtually)

With the whole office working from home, we’re all missing out on the casual social interactions we used to enjoy throughout the day to feel connected. Some people need these social interactions to maintain mental health and wellbeing. Great ways to keep up interactions with others include; taking advantage of technology to keep in touch with colleagues and friends, taking walks, waving to neighbours and making the occasional trip to the supermarket (albeit 1.5 meters distance from others).

These are just a few tips to make working from home an enjoyable experience. The key thing is to figure out what works best for you and stick to it!

For further advice on supporting people with disability during this pandemic, refer to Australian Network on Disability’s COVID-19 Response Series which has a number of resources with practical recommendations and solutions to supporting employees at this time.

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