Making the transition to working from home

Well being expert Heather Beach has some advice for how to make it through the next weeks of lockdown with your family.

international men's day mental health


Unless you are blessed with a partner who doesn’t work and a huge house in which everyone can have their own space, this period of isolation is going to see your relationship truly tested.

There is a plethora of advice out there on how to ensure you safeguard your mental health during lockdown and all of it requires us to be more organised and planned than we have been before because our old routines – in which we were perhaps perfectly happy, or dealing with low-level dissatisfaction – have gone. We need to proactively create new ones.

Never before have we been faced with such an opportunity. Normally these routines, perhaps refreshed at New Year or after a family row and a resolution to be better, just creep up on us. This also applies to family life.

Different approaches

Let’s face it, every family is different. When we asked the question of a panel of dads two weeks into this period, the answers we received over what was working offered two ends of a spectrum.

There are those who have created family agreements and posters and are sitting down for a family debrief at the end of the day, and those who are saying we just need to bring more love and kindness to every situation, accept there will be very bad days and roll with it.

So ask yourself these questions: Are you a family who is very planned normally? Do you always sit down and discuss things over the dinner table or are you more fluid? Any attempt in my house to do a family agreement would be met with raucous laughter. However, even the fluid types will find that with children to manage, and home school, some
organisation is really necessary at this time.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Share calendars and make agreements on who will be where at what time and who is managing childcare when. If you are taking home schooling on, share with your manager the times you will be unavailable for meetings and phone calls. You can always negotiate on sending an updated to-do list at the end of the day.
  • If you only have a small space, agree who has the premium space and when. Start with a “commute” even if it is a walk around the block or up and down the stairs/round the kitchen, and shut all your equipment down at the same time each day.
  • Mark out a time each day where you will do some things together – cooking a meal, playing a game or taking part in an online fitness session.
  • Put less pressure on yourself. Those of us with perfectionist tendencies who try to be high achievers in every area of life, have to put some of that on hold right now. If a child wanders into a zoom call, if they are not making the progress with school work they “should” be right now, give yourself the same understanding you would give a friend.

It is very normal for people to have meltdowns in trauma and crisis – we are going through a kind of collective grief, which anger is often the first stage of, so it doesn’t mean your relationship is in trouble if you, or your children, feel this.  Consider the five languages of love. Relationship therapists will often use this, and we think it is genius. We all express and receive love differently. If your method and your partners don’t align there is a temptation to think you don’t love each other – perhaps find out what theirs is and try on methods to make them feel loved (don’t do as you would be done by, do as THEY would be done by).

The five languages are:

  • Words of affirmation – using words to build up the other person.
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service – doing something helpful for your partner or child
  • Quality time – giving your family some undivided attention
  • Physical touch

Give each other and yourself some space. Even if this means disappearing onto the balcony/bedroom/back garden for a while, even the most extrovert among us will need our own space in this period.

A top tip for kids who are eating your fridge empty is to create a tuck shop which opens twice a day and give them £1 to spend. Agree a price list (if Ribena is 50p they will soon start to drink water).

This might be an opportunity to redefine our relationships. If it isn’t and you just get through it intact, that is OK too.

*Heather Beach is the founder and director of The Healthy Work Company. Unique in its model – THWC offers tailored training solutions in line with office culture and support employers’ wellbeing strategies. Heather is a positive psychologist and a leader in her field in health and safety and HR. She is currently working with ITV, London Luton Airport, Mace and The Telegraph delivering courses to enable managers to spot signs and symptoms of distress, have the confidence to start better conversations, and empower them with the tools to have teams which thrive.

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