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Coping with being a keyworker

19th May 2020

Many energy professionals are classed as ‘key workers’, a title which comes with a great deal of responsibility – and a great deal of pressure. This means that those who play critical roles in keeping the lights on and the water flowing for people across the UK could be more vulnerable to stress and poor mental wellbeing. 

If you are a key worker, you’ll be facing your own unique stressors. You might be working longer hours, or seeing less of your family – National Grid has created ‘sleep pods’ for critical workers to enable them to sleep on site, for example. Your role may have changed in response to our changing environment, and you might be required to observe social distancing rules. Or perhaps you’re working from home with your children, trying to juggle home-schooling and your own workload. 

Whatever it is that is adding to your stress, it’s crucial that you do as much as you can to boost your own wellbeing – because you’ll find it difficult to continue to provide essential support for others if you’re struggling yourself. So here are some tried-and-tested techniques for maintaining your wellbeing: 

Take control of your time

If you’re facing a heavier workload and increased responsibilities, just looking at your to-do list could be causing you to feel stressed. But while there might not be much you can do to reduce your list of tasks, simply planning out your day can help you to feel more in control.

Breaking down any large tasks into smaller actions can make a seemingly overwhelming job seem much more manageable. Prioritise the most urgent tasks on your list – don’t put them off, as this is likely to make you feel more stressed. Tick off each action as you complete it, so you can see that you’re making progress. 

You should also set time aside for breaks and stick to them. It might feel like you don’t have time for a break, but studies have shown that people are much more productive when they have regular breaks from their work. So step away from your desk every so often.    

Talk to others 

As someone in a position of responsibility, you may find talking about your wellbeing difficult – but you don’t have to deal with the stress of being a key worker alone. Talk to your friends and family if you’re feeling stressed or low, as they will want to help you. It may also encourage them to open up about any difficulties they’re experiencing.

You may find talking to your colleagues particularly useful, because they may be experiencing the same challenges as you are. Just sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone else who understands what you’re going through can go a long way towards lightening the load on your shoulders. 

If you’re not comfortable in talking to someone you know about your wellbeing, remember that listening services like the Samaritans are always available. 

Make time to be active 

When you’ve got a heavy workload and plenty of responsibilities at home, too, it can be difficult to find the time (or the energy) to exercise, but doing so can have such a beneficial impact on your wellbeing that it’s worth making time for wherever possible.

You don’t have to run a marathon – simply getting out for a short walk can help you to clear your head. If you’re still going out to work, and you work within a reasonable distance of home, you may be able to incorporate exercise into your commute by walking, running or cycling into work.

If you can make time for a longer workout, there are plenty of free online workouts available on Youtube and similar platforms.     

Access expert support 

If you’re struggling with your mental wellbeing, there are lots of resources available to help you – so please access them whenever you need to. 

The Government has set up a new initiative – Our Frontline – to support key workers’ mental wellbeing during and after the coronavirus crisis. Their hub contains lots of useful resources, and you can also have a confidential chat with a trained professional by texting KEYWORKER to 85258 for a text conversation or call 116 123 for a phone conversation. 

Maintaining your mental wellbeing

We hope you find these tips useful – if you manage to give some of them a go, then please let us know! 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we’re running our #TakeTenMinutes initiative, in which we’re encouraging you to take at least ten minutes to focus on your wellbeing every day. Follow us on LinkedIn for more top tips on maintaining your wellbeing.