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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Winter is coming

It is important to look after our mental and physical health while working from home

The clocks have gone back, the days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and most of us are still working from home.

Hopefully, at least your heating at home might be better than some offices where you are either the person dressed like you are in the Caribbean because you are sitting under the heating vent or the person dressed like the Michelin man with the corner desk in the Arctic.

As we all face different and varying versions of lockdown, it is now very much the everyday rather than a short-term inconvenience. It is therefore important that we revisit the need to consider our own mental health and general well-being and those of our teams.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a recognised condition, but we can all probably relate to some of the symptoms at this time of the year. In combination with lockdown, and the consequential reduced social interaction, we are only too aware that ‘winter is coming’.

Even the usual prospect of a Christmas lift, which many look forward to, is tempered with concern about what will or will not be possible in terms of celebrating.

Many HCA members I talk to mention that, as the constraints of lockdown are not new, this has led to some complacency. When we first went into lockdown and were only allowed out to exercise once a day, we made sure we went out. We explored local paths that we had no idea even existed and marvelled at the reduction in traffic.

That valuable routine and all the well-being benefits it provided seems to have been lost. Instead we now have a day of scheduled Teams calls, too many cups of coffee, a hurriedly grabbed lunch and an evening in front of the TV or helping with children’s homework (probably also on their computer screen).

It’s time for us all to take a moment to think about how we manage our own working from home and how we can help our teams do the same.

For some, the office is essential

I am pleased to hear that despite the step back from encouraging people to go back to the office, many offices that have put in place COVID secure environments have stayed opened for those who need them.

And ‘need’ is probably not an exaggeration. We all instantly think of those who live in a shared flat and have to work in a kitchen that is regularly frequented by their flat mates, trying to find a comfortable position perched on the edge of the kitchen table.

But also consider those with busy family homes who just need to step away ‘for their sanity’. For those who live alone, the office might be an important part of their social well-being and a day a week, even when they have to stay two meters away from their colleagues but are still able to interact in person, can make a big difference.

Of course, that social interaction does not always have to take place in the office. Team members who live in the same area could meet at a local coffee shop or to go for a walk (in line with local restrictions, of course).


Data suggests that, even when offices are able to reopen fully, many of us are hoping to be able to work from home more often in the future. When working from home, it is important to keep clear lines between work and home, both from a practical point of view, and also to maintain a routine. For those who are able to shut the door on their home working space at the end of the day, this is ideal.

If not, it is still important not to leave the computer and papers on the table so they are always there, ‘staring’ at you. Even without the daily commute, routine is important for our well-being and we need to establish this for our new normal.

Stay socially connected

I have already mentioned some thoughts on meeting locally based colleagues, but even virtually let’s not let our social interactions wane over time. They are probably even more important now than when the lockdown first started.

Even though winter is coming, the consequences don’t have to be stark. By recognising that we will be in this scenario for a while, actively adapting and regularly taking a step back to consider our well-being, we can ensure we remain productive and in good mental and physical health while working from home.

Mike Dixon is CEO of the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) and a communications consultant

1st December 2020

From: Research


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