Maintaining employee wellbeing when working from home
Pre-Covid-19, the ability to work from home was often considered to be a huge benefit.
However, the world right now feels a little crazier, with changes to day-to-day life, social distancing, worries about the economy, and fear about the future becoming our new normal. In the Steel household, we’re desperate to reclaim our kitchen table and get back to some sense of normality, especially as Mrs. Steel is running a contact centre from there at the moment.
Changes like the ones we’ve experienced during the pandemic can lead to increased isolation, stress and anxiety, which remote working can exacerbate. When you also consider additional challenges that arose during lockdown (e.g. childcare issues, finding space at home for an office, working around family members, technology issues and home schooling, etc.), it’s clear that employers need to consider different approaches when managing remote workers.
Ensuring that individuals continue to feel connected to their teams is vital, given that we tend to spend more waking hours at work than at home. These working relationships are integral to employee happiness; from a business point of view, they’re also key to good employee engagement. Time spent maintaining and nurturing them is time well spent.
It’s also important to consider how remote workers can remain professionally connected to the organisation as a whole. When employees feel that decisions are being made or projects are moving forward without their involvement, they can feel isolated and detached from the business. Additional effort is therefore needed to collaborate with teams working remotely.
Working from home can often mean lifestyle improvements, but equally, it can create additional stress for some people. Whether you have a workforce of 3 or 300 people, the following guidelines will help you look after the wellbeing of your remote employees.
Video calling is a great way to check-in with teams as everybody gets to see a friendly face.
Think about different methods of communication
Emails have the benefit of creating a written transcript of conversations. In the absence of visual and auditory cues, however, they can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretation, due to a loss of context and tone.
Phone calls, on the other hand, tend to be a quicker form of communication and, along with video calls, are particularly important when dealing with any challenging or emotive issues. Video calling is also a great way to check in with teams as everybody gets to see a friendly face.
To avoid ambiguity, communication guidelines could be established so that everyone understands the preferred method for differing situations. For example, daily check-ins could be via video call, report sharing via email and phone, and instant messaging used for topics requiring an urgent response.
Establish regular or daily contact with the team
Regular check-ins with individuals or the whole team will keep everyone updated about ongoing discussions. Daily group video calls give everyone the chance to catch up; allocating time at the start or end of the call to talk about life outside of work will help to maintain a connection between team members.
One issue with remote working can be that communication lags when team members are in different locations. Establishing an instant messaging system via software such as Slack could mean communication is as fast as being in the same room.
Support social contact between team members
During a typical working day, there’s usually social interaction between employees (e.g. lunch or coffee breaks), which can quickly disappear when employees work remotely. This lack of social connection can lead to isolation, loneliness and reduced employee engagement.
It’s therefore important for employers to encourage and facilitate remote social engagement within their teams. This could be done via non-work discussions on platforms such as WhatsApp, FaceTime or Zoom.
Set output related goals for individuals
One of the fears managers often have when they’re unable to supervise staff face to face is whether their employees are working as hard or as efficiently. Conversely, employees often struggle if they have little access to managerial support.
By setting output related goals, it’s easier to manage expectations and also step back from micro-managing individuals. In these particularly challenging times, when employees may have child or adult care issues to squeeze into their day, organising their own way of working is likely to lead to greater productivity.
Offer emotional support
It’s important to be aware of any existing mental health issues that team members may be experiencing, and also the impact that social distancing measures may be having on individuals. Additionally, the absence of a clear separation between work and home could lead to stress and burnout.
Managers, therefore, need to be observant, listen to anxieties and monitor any problems that may arise. Often, a simple question such as ‘How are you finding remote working so far?’ can help unearth any concerns.
It can also be helpful to issue a clear directive of expected working hours, and a reminder that team members should respect non-working hours when speaking with colleagues.
Help remote workers establish a structure
No longer having a routine and daily structure can be a real problem when people move from office-based to home-based working. They no longer need to get up early for the 6.30am train, start and finish times become unclear, and boundaries between work and home may blur.
Employers can help by giving support and guidance on how to establish a working pattern that delivers both optimum productivity and a healthy home life:
Stick to a normal routine of sleep, mealtimes and working hours
Make a schedule and follow it! Start work at the normal time and do any household jobs (such as cleaning and laundry) at the end of the working day
Designate a specific part of the house (even if this is just a corner of the living room) for work and clear it at the end of the day to avoid falling into bad practices, such as checking emails while watching TV in the evening
Block out noise from other household members with headphones or low music. YouTube has some ambient café or wave sounds that can help concentration
Discourage friends and family from interrupting you during the day, particularly if it’s not typical of them to pop into the workplace for a chat. Ask them to get in touch when your working day is over
Reach out to friends, family and work colleagues if you’re struggling. Video calling can help prevent feelings of isolation, and mindfulness techniques, such as the Headspace app, are great for relaxation
Avoid cabin fever by getting outside for a walk, either at lunchtime or at the end of the working day
Stay hydrated, eat healthily, and take regular exercise
Remote working is often seen as a lifestyle goal, which, in pre-pandemic days, could even mean working from beach-front cafes around the world whilst still enjoying the security of employment.
However, it’s not for everyone. The enforced work from home directive, due to Covid-19, may actually create additional stress for employees – particularly those who love the social aspect of a workplace environment, or who have a home situation that makes remote working difficult.
By taking measures to support employees and create new ways of working, employers can address some of the problems that remote working can bring. Above all, remember that these are challenging times for everyone.
Get in touch with the team here at The Business Village if you would like any help or support with establishing new ways of working.
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