A guide to health and wellbeing in a remote world
For employers only
In 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicted that more than 50% of us would be working from home by the year 2020. But none of us could have foreseen that five years on we would see that initial statistic explode in the way it has.
The sudden culture shock and behaviour changes caused by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic have turned the working world on its head, with many businesses needing to adapt almost overnight to new working from home challenges. As a result, the spotlight has been placed on our health and wellbeing like never before, as many employees face unprecedented levels of uncertainty, feelings of isolation and fears of financial insecurity.
There are, of course, some great benefits to remote working, such as flexibility in working hours. However, if done badly, the act of incorporating our working environment into our living spaces can have negative impacts on both our physical and mental health.
Often overlooked is the importance of finding a suitable but comfortable place to work, while it's important to recognise that some people prefer to keep changing location to try to feel motivated and keep things fresh. Some may need silence to concentrate, but for others playing music or having the radio on in the background can help them pass the day productively.
Exercise, or at least moving around, is vital to help us avoid sitting at a computer for too long. So standing up to take calls, taking regular breaks and getting up for a cup of tea or a glass of water are little touches that can make a big difference.
It's also crucial to stay connected, build a routine you can stick to and remember to switch off, so to help you do this, here are some practical tips for working from home.
- Stick to a routine
- To combat the feeling of isolation it's important to stay connected and let your manager know where you are. Keeping in touch with colleagues via video call is a great way to feel connected
- If you're working at a desk, resist the urge to stay sat down for long periods of time as this can affect your posture. Stretch, take regular screen breaks or walk around your home while you talk on the phone
- Set some rules with your family, flatmates, so they know when you're not to be disturbed
- Be work-ready – remember to stay professional
- Remember to switch off – make a point ‘shutting down' at the end of the day and don't keep going back to check up on things.
Then there are the challenges faced by many managers adjusting to the new environment. Communicating by video calls may not come naturally to everyone. Things can sometimes get lost in translation so it's important to always be clear and keep regular contact with fellow employees.
Having the right technology in place is also crucial. So here is what managers can do support home workers.
- Technology and support: Make sure your team has the tools they need to work effectively from home. For example, a secure and reliable connection for your communication tools (video-based chat software, phones), additionally remember the reasonable adjustments you do to support your teams at work are equally applicable to them at home
- Keep in touch: regular contact to share problems, successes and for the team to gain a sense of connection
- Be clear: as you're not face-to-face, communication needs to be clear to reduce ambiguity and set expectations
- Work output: set realistic output goals and give your team the flexibility to manage this. Suggest they block time out of their diary to concentrate on tasks at hand
- Work together to solve problems – being collaborative leads to more creative problem solving and getting your team to consult with one another will reap dividends
- Keep motivation high – celebrate the successes even the small ones to build a sense of connectedness and make sure everyone's contribution is recognised.