Topic: Health & Well-being

Hurting from home

Is the ‘new normal’ having an adverse effect on your health?

More than half of office workers believe their employer should do more to help them work from home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. This has lead to millions of Britons suffering in pain as a result of their makeshift home offices.

Presenteeism during lockdown

Levels reach record highs in organisations as stress at work rises

Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism isn’t always apparent. You know when someone doesn’t show up for work, but you often can’t tell when or how much illness or a medical condition hinders someone’s performance.

How would you cope without an income?

Make sure you’re ready should the unexpected happen

Mental health conditions might not be as easy to pin down as physical health conditions, but insurers are increasingly recognising the need to provide cover and support to people suffering with mental ill health. And with mental health behind so many income protection claims, it’s worth reviewing what protection you have in place.

Working remotely

10 essential tips how to work from home effectively

Prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak, we might have imagined working from home as the opportunity of sleeping in late, lounging around in our pyjamas, and long leisurely lunches. However, as many of us are now having to work from home, even though this offers a great amount of flexibility, it is still a professional job – and it needs to be treated as such.

As you have likely already discovered, working where you live is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you have other people in the space. So where practical and depending on the individual for many working at home, it is still important to have set hours, a dedicated workspace, avoid home-bound distractions, and actually dressing as if we’re going to work, to help keep our mindset sharp and focused.

Top tips on how to successfully work from home

1. Plan your day

This will help you minimise your distractions and maximise your true productive times. Without supervision, even the most conscientious of us can lose focus. Setting a plan not only provides structure to the day, but it also helps you stay motivated. Start the day as you would if you worked in an office. Get up at the time you would usually wake up. Get dressed, and try to avoid online distractions once you sit down to work. You’ll soon discover the best rhythm for your day. Then set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish on a daily basis. Make a plan and stick to it. Make sure you give yourself permission to have downtime. If you have to work extra hours, give yourself some extra free time later on to compensate.

2. Get organised

Maintaining balance is one of the most difficult aspects of working at home, because the work is always right there staring you in the face. To keep you on track (and not working too much or too little), organisation will be key. Get organised by creating schedules and to-do lists. At the start of each day, spend some time organising your to-do list. Be realistic by setting goals you know you can achieve, and never promise too much. Along with your to-do items, set yourself deadlines to get each one done. For example, if you’ve got a report to write, promise yourself you’ll finish it before lunch, before moving onto the next item.

3. Have a set workspace

If you can, designate a specific place for a home office. Store all work-related files, reference materials, supplies and computer or laptop there. Try not to make it near a bed or a TV. Avoid home distractions, and never underestimate the gravitational pull of the fridge and your comfy bed. Ideally, you should ensure that your office space emulates that of a true work environment.

4. Set office hours

Make sure to create a time slot for each of the day’s activities. This helps with communicating to others when your work-time and down-time is. If you have small children, you may need to schedule your work around their naps and periods of home schooling, so that you can have a good period of time to work uninterrupted.

5. Limit the number of times emails are checked

You might find yourself constantly checking email because you’re worried about being out of the loop. However, while it’s important to stay connected, spending too much time on email might distract you from more important tasks.

6. Turn off all social media accounts

In this social media–driven world, it’s likely that you spend a significant portion of your spare time browsing Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And because the home is therefore inherently capable of putting you in a social media mindset, it’s important to remove it as a distraction while working. Unless it’s essential for your work, stop checking Facebook, turn off Twitter notifications and avoid the temptation to browse your Instagram feed while working. Again, you can do this by promising yourself some time with them once the work is done.

7. Keeping connected and in touch

If you are now having to work remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, your employer may already have provided the technology – and the chances are you’re using Zoom, Google Chat, Microsoft Teams and so on. However, if this is not the case and you’re looking for tech to enable you to keep in contact with clients or customers, employees or suppliers, the main tools are Microsoft’s Skype, Google’s Duo and Apple’s FaceTime, the last of which only works on Apple devices. Most phone-based messaging apps, including Signal, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, also offer video chat, which can be easier to use.

8. Take micro-breaks

When making your schedule, you might want to consider working in smaller chunks of time, and allowing yourself time to get up from the computer to stretch. This will really help you both physically and mentally. When you take micro-breaks, you’ll likely to be more productive. Get some fresh air if you can. Open your windows to let in as much natural daylight and fresh air as possible.

9. Don’t get distracted

One significant difference between home working and the traditional work environment is the presence of family members. While they may not be there all the time, you’re bound to come into contact with them occasionally while working. Because of this, it’s vital that you set boundaries. Make sure that you are focused on the best and proper use of your time during your work hours. Have the radio or some music on in the background as you might do at work.

10. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Working at home can lend itself to a sedentary lifestyle, not to mention the close proximity of the kitchen and refrigerator, making weight gain a problem. Make sure to schedule time for exercise, keep healthy nutritional snacks nearby to maintain your concentration levels, and remember to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Mental health and well-being

Recognising times when we feel down or stressed

Mental health and well-being play a big part in how happy we are in our everyday lives, especially during this difficult time. It includes factors such as an individual’s ability to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, and build strong and positive relationships with others.

It also involves areas of life such as feelings of satisfaction, optimism, self-esteem, having some control over one’s life, having a purpose in life, and a sense of belonging and support. During this coronavirus outbreak, resulting in many of us staying at home or in self-isolation, it’s important to consider how to connect with others during these difficult times.

Maintain relationships

Essential for our mental well-being is maintaining relationships with people we trust. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via the telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.

Help those around you

Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember, it’s important to do this in line with guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep yourself and everyone safe. And try to be accepting of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours.

Connect with support groups

It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines, or you could find support groups online to connect with.

Physical health impact

Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, and exercise inside where possible and outside once a day for up to one hour, by following the Government’s guidelines.

Keeping active at home

If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended two metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance). If you are staying at home, you can find free, easy ten-minute workouts from Public Health England or other exercise routines on YouTube and fitness apps. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.

Sleep hygiene practices

Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.

Things you can control

Many people find the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared. It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now, but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful.

Reduce media time

The continuous output of 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting to a couple of checks a day.

Positive new routines

Life is changing for us all for a while. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities or meaningful activities such as reading. You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week.

Boost your mood

When you are anxious, lonely or low, you may do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focusing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.

Try something new

If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online quizzes and streamed live music concerts.

Control and purpose

Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online. Play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.

Relax and focus

Taking time to relax and focusing on the present can help with difficult emotions and worries about the future, and can also improve well-being. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety.

Get natural sunlight

If you can, once a day, get outside. Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical well-being. If you can’t get outside, you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can. Remember that social distancing guidelines enable you to go outside to exercise once a day as long as you keep two metres apart from others who are not members of your household group.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Let’s get physical

How exercise can help during coronavirus

Across the country, fitness clubs and gyms have closed in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). For many people, this is much more than just missing a workout –fitness routines have been proven to reduce stress as well as being a social outlet, leaving many people no longer able to follow their usual exercise routines.

It’s well accepted that being sedentary is bad for our physical and mental health, so staying active during this difficult time is important. Being physically active can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, while also maintaining muscle mass and bone density.

Keeping active

Physical activity also helps to keep your immune system working effectively as it flushes bacteria from the lungs and airways, increases white blood cell circulation, and raises body temperature – all of which help the body fight infection.

As well as the physical health benefits, keeping active is a great way to ward off some of the psychological issues associated with being cooped up for an extended time. Being active helps lower stress hormones, such as cortisol, and promotes the release of feel-good hormones, such as endorphins.

Digital offerings

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, a variety of digital offerings have sprung up to ensure people can continue exercise while social distancing.

Wearable giant Fitbit announced in a blog post that it is supporting people during the pandemic by offering 90-day free trials of its Fitbit Premium and Fitbit Coach services. The premium service includes more than 150 workouts, while Fitbit Coach allows users to stream workout videos on phones or computers.

Meanwhile, online fitness membership GymCube has commented that it was seeing a surge in users.

Social media workouts

Although gyms have been forced to close their doors, many are offering their members online services instead. UK health club chains David Lloyd and PureGym are both providing members workouts via their mobile apps, while Nuffield Health is offering workouts via its YouTube channel and well-being app. Virgin Active also announced plans to provide workouts through its social media channels and website.

Children’s fitness

Children haven’t been left out of the fitness equation either. YouTube fitness trainer Joe Wicks is live streaming daily ‘PE with Joe’ lessons on his channel, The Body Coach, on weekdays. His first classes are getting more than 2.1 million views.

If you’re currently stuck at home, you may be feeling demoralised about what this will mean for your fitness. Whether you were training for a marathon or you enjoy working out at the gym, it can be tough to think of putting your usual routine on hold.

Adapting your workout

Even if you’re not much of a fitness fan, you may baulk at the prospect of staying indoors for a number of weeks while barely raising your step count. Exercise is vital for our mental and physical health, and is arguably more important than ever during periods of self-isolation.

The bad news is that, under new measures announced by the Government, leaving your house is only permitted for essential reasons. The good news is that doesn’t mean stopping activity altogether. You’re still able to go outside once per day for exercise. And it’s possible to use this time to get fitter and stronger than ever, albeit while adapting your workout so that it can be done from home.

Body-weight training

If you can’t leave the house, one of the most effective workouts is a mix of body-weight exercises and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Body-weight HIIT workouts are relatively short and don’t take up much space. Best of all, they don’t require any equipment.

Body-weight training uses your body as resistance to give you a challenging workout, which can improve your fitness levels and also build strength. Relying on only your body to work out also improves balance and flexibility, engaging and targeting all of the important muscle groups with just a few exercises.

Interval training can be a great way to maintain fitness, and you don’t need much space. Hill sprints, jump squats, burpees, planks, skipping or fast push-ups will have you sweating in no time. There are plenty of suitable workouts available online.

If you have underlying health problems, or currently have a very sedentary lifestyle and any risk factors for heart disease (such as high blood pressure), HIIT may not be safe for you, and you should consider alternatives that you can try.

Low-impact exercise

If you prefer something lower-impact and don’t want to disturb the neighbours, now’s the time to roll out a mat or towel and try some yoga or Pilates. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can’t access a plethora of yoga classes online, fitness routines and meditations. Walking meditations are ideal and can be done in your house, or outside by following social distancing guidelines. Put your earphones in, concentrate on your chosen guided meditation, and get your steps in whilst you do it.

MoreYoga, London’s largest independent yoga studio chain, has started offering free classes on its YouTube channel.

Staying motivated

Of course, even with the best of intentions, you may find your motivation flagging from time to time. You probably just want things to go back to normal, rather than trying to clear an area of space in your living room.

For this reason, it’s important to set goals, big and small, and to schedule your workouts. Routine is important here. You could plan your workouts for first thing in the morning, so you can get them out the way before the day’s distractions start.

You could also set an alarm for a 20-minute movement session three times a day – this will help break the day up and make limited resources go further. Go up and down the stairs, or use a box or ledge to perform step-ups.

Maintaining fitness

It can take about seven to 14 days for your aerobic fitness to start declining. What you lose initially is mostly the gains that you’ve made in the last several months of training. If you’ve been a lifelong runner, you will retain much of your aerobic fitness for several months.

You could track your progress on a fitness app. Some apps have the added advantage of a virtual community, who can hold you accountable and keep you on track. A fitness app will give you solid evidence to refer back to when you’re doubting your progress, and you won’t succumb to negative thoughts that could prevent you from exercising altogether.

Positive thinking

Finally, if ever there was a time to apply the power of positive thinking, during this COVID-19 crisis is it. It’s important not to be disheartened if you can’t continue with your current fitness regime, or a race or event that you’ve been training for has been cancelled. In this day and age, there are a plethora of options and resources to work out from home, so rather than taking a negative view of the situation when it comes to maintaining your fitness levels, see it as a motivating challenge and a chance to switch things up and progress.

Social distancing

The coronavirus outbreak is having an impact on everyone’s daily lives. It is important for both your physical and mental health to keep fit and healthy. The Government’s message is that you can exercise outside once a day for one hour, whilst following social distancing guidelines, but stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily. You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household and keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times.

If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air. You need to also take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors.

If you’re new to exercise, start small – try maybe ten minutes of yoga or walking a day, then gradually build up. Even ten minutes of movement a day can help your body and mind feel better. Encourage your loved ones, who you’re no doubt spending a lot of time with right now, to take a moment to move their bodies too. And if you’re not feeling well, follow the advice of your health professional – including some rest.

How can we help?

For more information, please contact S4 Financial on 01276 34932 or email hello@s4financial.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.