DR MAX PEMBERTON: Health risks of WFH in your PJs are real

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A third of working from home employees wear their pyjamas during working hours, with one in 12 wearing them every day (stock image)

Since the pandemic, working from home (WFH) has become quite normal. While many people have welcomed this, I’m convinced it’s hugely detrimental to the nation’s mental health.

I’ve been horrified by a number of patients who are still working from home and who tell me they spend most of their day lounging around, answering emails from their bed while watching box sets. 

Of course, they struggle to focus, get easily distracted and sometimes don’t even bother to brush their teeth till the evening.

It’s not hard to see how this is a disaster for mood and self-esteem, let alone productivity at work. 

I’ve long suspected people keep their cameras off on Zoom calls, not because their connection is poor, but because they are either still in bed or sitting in their PJs.

A third of working from home employees wear their pyjamas during working hours, with one in 12 wearing them every day (stock image)

It seems my suspicions are correct. A survey last week revealed that a whopping third of WFH employees admitted to wearing their pyjamas during working hours, with one in 12 wearing them every day.

Ok, I know lazing around in your nightwear once in a while feels like a luxury. But every day? Have some self-respect, people, and get dressed!

Presumably some of these slobs will have children, and I despair at the message this sends to the younger generation about an appropriate work ethic. Hardly a good example.

Employers constantly moan that young people simply don’t know how to dress or behave at work, and with role models like these parents, are we surprised?

Yes, I know that being a parent is tiring. Yes, I know parents are under incredible amounts of stress and many feel overwhelmed. 

But those parents who can’t be bothered even to pull on proper clothes before sitting down to their day’s work are showing their children that it’s OK to be an inveterate slob.

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There’s a more fundamental point here, too, about the link between how we present ourselves to the outside world and how we feel inside.

We all know wearing our smartest, most expensive clothes can make us stand taller — but it’s more complicated than that.

It¿s not hard to see how working from bed or the couch is a disaster for mood and self-esteem, let alone productivity at work

It’s not hard to see how working from bed or the couch is a disaster for mood and self-esteem, let alone productivity at work

When people have no self-respect, their dress reflects this. You can tell so much about the state of someone’s mind by simply looking at them. Their clothes and their hair give away what’s going on inside. 

I remember my Auntie Cis, who was always immaculately turned out. Throughout my childhood, she’d put on lipstick and a twin set just to pay the milkman.

She always used to say ‘take pride in your appearance. If you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect others to?’

The day I turned up to visit and noticed a stain on her cardigan was the day I knew she wasn’t well. Indeed, over the coming months, as her dementia progressed and she deteriorated mentally, so too did her appearance.

She stopped coordinating her clothes. She stopped wearing jewellery. Little by little she let herself go, just as her mind went, too. Her unravelling was both external and internal and it was achingly sad to watch.

Since then I’ve seen similar things with my patients. In fact, an old professor I once worked for said the time to start worrying about your patients is when they stop doing their hair. 

It sounds glib, but in fact it isn’t: what’s happening on top of your head is a good indicator of what’s going on in it.

GPs have often referred patients to me with no tangible symptoms except that they’d noticed the patient had begun neglecting themselves. Dirty clothes, unbrushed hair: they are key signs that things aren’t as they should be.

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Dr Max Pemberton is horrified by a number of patients who are still working from home and who tell him they spend most of their day lounging around, answering emails from their bed while watching box sets

Dr Max Pemberton is horrified by a number of patients who are still working from home and who tell him they spend most of their day lounging around, answering emails from their bed while watching box sets

By the same token, taking care of how you look lifts the mood. Once I even organised for a patient to have a haircut, to help tackle her depression, anxiety and reluctance to leave her house.

It worked a treat and in my follow-up clinic she told me she had gone out for the first time in a year just to show off her new hairdo.

How many frazzled, put-upon mums up and down the country look in the mirror each morning, take a deep breath, and slap on some make-up in order to face the day? Everyone does it to a greater or lesser extent, and the point is, it works.

Taking care of yourself, brushing your hair and dressing up has a direct effect on how we feel. So get out of those PJs!

Don’t blame Jamie Lynn for leaving

Jaime Lynn Spears, sister to Britney Spears, left the jungle in I'm A Celebrity for 'medical reasons'

Jaime Lynn Spears, sister to Britney Spears, left the jungle in I’m A Celebrity for ‘medical reasons’

Both restaurant critic Grace Dent, and sister to Britney, Jamie Lynn Spears, have left the jungle in I’m A Celebrity for ‘medical reasons’.

I’ve seen quite a few people complaining that they should have stuck it out. I wonder how many of us, curled up on our sofa in front of the TV, could have coped with having cockroaches in our ears or being stuck in a wet, hostile jungle with little food?

A dear friend of mine, the TV presenter Dr Dawn Harper, took part in a similar reality TV programme a few years ago called Celebrity Island, where participants were dumped, alone, on a tropical island. 

She stuck out the whole thing, but described it afterwards as ‘the most awful experience ever’. 

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All the participants suffered malnourishment, dehydration and heat stroke. One person lost two stone in a week. Two quit the show: my friend said they looked like ‘zombies’. 

The reality is, celebrities are only human and no, they can’t always cope.

Only a fifth of NHS staff have had Covid and flu jabs, but it is easy to get one. 

In my trust, every site has a staff member able to give the jabs, so you have to go out of your way not to get them. 

Vaccinations protect patients. Is it time to insist all staff get jabbed as a condition of employment? 

The effects of menopause have been ignored or underplayed by the medical profession for too long. But is it a reason to avoid jail? 

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales is consulting on plans to increase the use of ‘rehabilitative’ sentences, such as unpaid work or drug treatment programmes, instead of handing out short prison sentences, and wants judges and magistrates to think twice before jailing older women who are menopausal. 

The criminal justice system fails to deliver justice to victims of serious crime on a routine basis. 

Yes, our jails are often crammed with petty criminals for whom short sentences do little. But it feels a backward step to suggest women should be given special treatment and get lighter sentences simply because of the stage of life they’re in. 

Foot warmer, £55, thewhitecompany.com

Foot warmer, £55, thewhitecompany.com

DR MAX PRESCRIBES…

A stylish foot warmer 

Snow might seem fun, but for those with circulation problems, especially Reynaud’s, which causes reduced blood flow to the extremities, falling temperatures are nothing to celebrate. 

This heated foot warmer might be the perfect gift. Pop the inner pouch in the microwave to warm for really toasty toes (£55, thewhite company.com)

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