The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has had a ripple effect around the world and extra preventative measures are being put in place in an attempt to prevent further spread of the virus. With that, more and more employees are now working from home.
Of course for some workers, this is not new. Over the past few years with tech advancements, remote working has become more ‘the norm’ for many employees rather than simply being a ‘perk’. However there will be a large proportion for whom this is something new, which is a big change in itself, with or without the risks of a global pandemic. Whether or not this is regular practise for you or your staff, there are some things to think about with regards to wellbeing when away from the office.
In a world that is reliant on a constantly evolving technological infrastructure that allows and even encourages people to work remotely, what are the implications when it comes to social isolation? It is well known that this can have adverse effects on anxiety and depression. However, working from home does not mean that communication should be neglected and there are a number of ways that this can be achieved beyond email. This highlights the need to be adaptable and think of how your communication with others can be modified in order to maintain some degree or normality in your day to day exchanges.
A lack of face time also has the potential to turn into miscommunication which can then lead to misunderstandings, alienation and a lack of connection to work.. It is crucially important to make time to have regular updates with your team beyond the usual email correspondence to help manage expectations around what needs to be done. This will help both employers and their staff to check in with one another around any specific projects and potentially enhance employees’ connection to the workplace and prevent distancing between colleagues .
Being in your home environment can mean for some that it is also easy to fire up the laptop and keep working way beyond their contracted hours. Having clear boundaries put in place will make it easier to ensure that the time spent working is productive, rather than blurring the lines between work and personal life. Both managers and their staff should agree on these and structure should be encouraged.
Working from the spare room or the kitchen table means that you might not have access to the same kind of working environment that you would have in the office. This includes things like desks and appropriate supportive seating. Bear this in mind as it can have a significant negative impact on posture; musculoskeletal injuries are the number one cause of disability worldwide. Comfort applies not only to seating with adequate spinal support but also an environment that has good lighting, ventilation and access to plants or other green space such as a garden if possible.
If days aren’t punctuated by the usual coffee and lunch breaks, or you are forgoing / modifying your usual exercise routine, it is likely that you maybe aren’t moving around as much as you would if you were in the office.Take the time to go for a walk and stretch. Get some fresh air, even if this is just standing outside. Again, this should be encouraged by management as part of routine; in the long run, like all of these suggestions, it will make working from home and wellbeing more sustainable in the long run.
In light of the situation that we are facing at the moment with COVID-19, we have been running our ‘Boost your mental health and wellbeing while working from home’ webinar over the past couple of weeks. We will be running this session again on Thursday, April 2 at 11am, where we will provide insight and ideas into what both employers and employees can do in order to ensure that mental health and wellbeing is prioritised while working from home. The webinar is free-to-attend and lasts 25 minutes – it also includes my thoughts and suggestions on ways to reduce anxiety whilst we are experiencing the COVID-19 crisis.