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Darker days: what can you do to look after your wellbeing this winter lockdown?

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

In these socially-distant times, isolation and uncertainty can cause anxiety and stress, and have a detrimental impact upon our general wellbeing and mental health.

Towards the end of 2020, we carried out a survey of over 16,200 UK professionals. Our findings showed that wellbeing fell after the first lockdown was announced in March last year, with the most commonly cited reasons for this the lack of social interaction (26%), isolation and loneliness (13%) and boredom (11%). Juggling childcare with work was a factor for 10% of respondents, as was an increase in workload.

We’re now nearly a year on from the first national lockdown and with the days shorter, colder and darker, it’s vital that we don’t fall back into any bad habits from before. We each need to look at what good practices we can adopt and, if you’re a manager, how you can support your team through this lockdown and beyond.

Here are some ideas to try and change your routine and help your wellbeing.

  1. Try a digital commute: if there is one thing many of us don’t miss from the ‘olden days’, it’s the commute. However, our commutes did bookend the work day, provide us valuable time to consider our plans for the day and it gave us a clear separation between work and home. Why not block out some time to replicate these valuable aspects of the commute without the hours spent in traffic or crowded trains – just a quick walk around the block might be sufficient.
     
  2. Wake up earlier: Winter is well and truly here, and until Spring arrives to bring us warmer weather and longer days, you may want to consider waking up earlier to enjoy as much light as possible. Do some chores in the morning, and, if possible - whilst adhering to the latest Covid-19 guidance - wrap-up and go for a walk or jog outside.
     
  3. Jot it down: Some of the most successful people in history were committed journalists. Whilst I’m not suggesting you commit to writing your memoirs during this lockdown, jotting down what you want to achieve, and how you plan to reach your goals can help set the tone for a positive and productive day.
     
  4. Read more: I think it’s safe to say that enjoying Netflix and other streaming services has become a national pastime over the past year. Why not try committing to reading more, in lieu of another evening in front of a screen? If you struggle with committing to reading, why not join a book club that fits with your interests and abilities.
     
  5. Ramp up your exercise: Feeling healthy physically is intrinsically linked to feeling mentally healthy. But doing the same exercises routines – many of which may well now be inside your house – can get a bit stale. Motivate yourself again by finding some new routines, investing in small pieces of equipment or types of exercise instead or set yourself a new exercise challenge. I’ve just set myself a challenge for our charity, End Youth Homelessness, and will be busy training so that when restrictions are lifted I will attempt to cycle from Bath to Bournemouth.

Whether managing a team or looking for ways to improve your own mental health and wellbeing, we should all be mindful that there will be further changes and challenges ahead, and colleagues who will need our support.

Remember that small changes can often make a big difference. By sharing tips and advice it’s a great starting point for a conversation about wellbeing, which is already a massive step in the right direction.

Download your copy here of your guide to protecting your wellbeing whilst working remotely. For managers, read our guide on how to support your team’s wellbeing here.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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