As part of our Mental Health Matters series, the Mental Health Foundation’s Chris O’Sullivan offers advice on how to cope with the huge changes to the ways we are all now living and working.
Q. In an extremely uncertain and busy time, many people in the travel industry are having to work extra hours. How can you best balance work and home life if you’re now working from home?
A. Naturally, because you care, you are thinking about clients, colleagues and friends in the industry. Our family and home lives help us balance work, and it’s easy to get lost in work at the moment. Carve out time for family, and make sure you find ways to keep up your hobbies, even if it means swapping the gym for a home workout.
Q. Working from home could mean people begin to feel isolated or lonely. How can they make up for less social interaction?
A. Connection is key for our wellbeing and being with folk is part of the appeal of working in the travel business. Try to keep connections going with colleagues, friends and family. Make the effort and try to have video-call lunch dates, call people, or see what you can do to help in the community if you are well. And find time for yourself too – learn a new skill, maybe online with a group. It might be something you could take on and make space for in your life even after the dust settles.
Q. Working in a new environment can be a big adjustment for many. How can people best adapt?
A. The rhythms of our working life are changing, and we don’t often know how that will be. Business will be different, but there may be opportunities for growth and development or to share skills. Until you find your groove, be kind to yourself, and don’t work too long.
Q. Some people might feel a bit anxious knowing they can’t travel at all. What can they do to help them feel less trapped?
A. This is a hard one for the travel trade. Many will have been drawn to the industry for the chance to visit new places. But although you, like your customers, can’t travel for a while, there are things you can do to keep that travel buzz alive. You can keep in touch with international contacts; you could create a photo album of your favourite trips or plan new ones; you could write down your top tips for your favourite places; or your could develop some training or insights for people new to the business or to the areas you know best.
Q. What about people who have been furloughed and might be worried about routines and the impact on their daily lives?
A. It can be very hard to lose access to your work – whether you are let go, furloughed or, if self-employed, find your work drops off. If you aren’t at work, try to keep in touch with colleagues – demand will increase again, and you will have a future. If you are isolated at home, keeping those connections can be so important. If you are self‑employed, try to reach out to your normal networks, or see if there’s an opportunity locally to connect with others through business forums. It’s an uncertain time but your skills will be needed again soon. As we adjust to a period of living and working differently, some employers will be looking for new staff, so think about how your skills transfer. And if you want to help and are able, consider doing something else for a while.
Q. How can people deal with worries about their finances, particularly if they’ve been furloughed, taken a pay cut or even lost their job?
A. Using a budget tool to redo your household budget for being at home could be useful. You may be saving money by not spending on things like transport and socialising. The government is launching initiatives daily. Remember, debt and money advice varies across the UK, so make sure you find the appropriate service for your nation. Speak to your bank if you are worried about paying your mortgage as many are allowing mortgage breaks. It’s also worth checking any insurance policies you have. Life cover, critical illness cover, mortgage insurance and even home insurance sometimes offer legal advice or cover that could help.
Q. With so much going on, it can be hard to sleep well. What tips do you have for a better night’s sleep?
A. Sleep is crucial for our mental health, but it’s understandable for it to be disturbed at a time like this. A bedtime routine is important. Limit your use of screens and consumption of news before bed and try to keep away from the booze. If you find yourself awake, get up and do something relaxing until you are tired again.
Chris O’Sullivan is head of business development and engagement at the Mental Health Foundation.