We have left behind business as usual, to be replaced with a new normal. What does that mean for our workforce and what challenges do we face delivering our wellbeing at work agenda?
With exponential numbers of employees working from home, careful management is needed to maintain health and wellbeing, as well as productivity and performance.
As much as 60% of the UK is working from home. Organisations have been responding fast to the remote working regime. Rapid change can bring drops in productivity but managed well dips should be short-term and recoverable.
Organisations can implement steps to support their workforce, optimise productivity and open channels of communication.
These steps include:
- Instigating daily check-ins - touch base and spot issues.
- Communicate expectations – be clear about flexible working parameters.
- Developing personal schedules - creating a sense of achievement to reach deadlines.
- Advice on home office set-ups - designated areas, decluttering, reducing distractions and taking breaks.
- Creating a connection strategy - combatting loneliness, matching people for virtual coffee breaks or team wide web lunches.
Employees are an organisation’s most precious resource, everyone needs to be looked after during these challenging times. One of the most effective ways is to actively encourage them to focus on their own physical and mental health and wellbeing.
According to a recent survey, 47% of UK managers felt their employees could be at risk of burnout as a result of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five top tips to help your employees make the most of each workday:
- Schedule regular breaks – computer work for eight hours a day is not just detrimental to your physical health but can cause undue mental strain. While planning the week’s schedule, pencil in frequent short breaks. Encourage employees to take a break, grab a coffee, or simply walk around to stretch, refocus and avoid exhaustion. Aim for at least one 15-20 minute break every 90 minutes of work time.
- Communicate consistently – web-based conferencing platforms allow remote work colleagues to connect and are also great burnout prevention tools. Connect with your team every day. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are often exacerbated for homeworkers, and even a casual phone call can be a major stress reliever.
- Ask for input - studies show that one of the top causes of burnout is the feeling of losing control. Help calm anxieties by earnestly requesting employee feedback and input. Encourage employees to speak up about any issues they're experiencing.
- Set realistic deadlines - employees may be working from living rooms or kitchen tables but should not be expected to work into the evenings, just because they can. Leaders should set the tone and lead by example. Emailing colleagues late into the evening can place undue pressure on employees to do the same. Work/life balance is even more important than ever.
- Allow autonomy - Micro-managing was always ill-advised and is even more so during a pandemic. Build your team's confidence, encourage them to set their schedule, or discuss solutions to an issue rather than dictate them. Ultimately, this can help people feel more in control of their day and their lives.
This year has led managers into unchartered territory. Leaders need to be vigilant, spotting the warning signs of burnout and motivate your remote employees.
Manage your own health and wellbeing
Take care of yourself and separate work and personal time when both are taking place in the home.
Outside of work, work on yourself. Look after your health and stay well:
- Find ways to relax and be creative with exercise, meditation, DIY, music, art.
- Keep your mind stimulated with reading, puzzles and learning.
- Plan regular catch-ups with someone you trust - have a safe space to talk about how you feel.
- Use available support – employee assistance programmes and helplines.
- Make time for yourself – establish a work start/finish time and take regular breaks.
- Remain active – move frequently, avoid sitting too long and plan in daily exercise.
- Look after your physical health – implement good habits for sleep, hydration, diet and exercise.
These are challenging times, but if managed productively a valuable work life balance is achievable.
Ashley Easen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Director of Risk Control at Risk Management Partners. Ashley has been supporting public sector clients to raise defensibility, improve their risk profiles, strengthen safety standards and reduce their total cost of risk for over 20 years.