Remote working is here to stay for the foreseeable future, so employers must take greater steps to guarantee employee wellbeing. Health Assured’s CEO, David Price, lays out five ways to protect your remote workforce’s wellbeing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work, possibly forever.
With the requirement to stay at home meaning that businesses are relying on remote working, many have found it to be a positive experience. With the ‘state of remote work’ survey from Buffer and AngelList finding that 98% would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
However, not all workers share the same enthusiasm for home working. With the biggest struggles being listed as:
• Collaboration and communication
• Not being able to unplug
Many managers have been establishing ways to protect employee’s mental health for several years, but home working presents a new challenge. How can you protect the wellbeing of your employees when there is a physical barrier between you and them?
1. Lead by Example
Almost a fifth of respondents in the ‘state of remote work’ survey said that not being able to unplug was a big struggle when working remotely.
This is due to the lack of a physical barrier between your home and work life. In the same way that sleep scientists recommend that you only use your bedroom for sleep, your brain makes connections between how you use a space and how you feel.
Therefore, it’s important to set out ground rules about when you are available and encourage workers to do the same.
If you use a project management tool and can see workers logging tasks outside of agreed hours or sending emails in the middle of the night, find out how they are finding working from home and if they need any support.
2. Encourage Employees to Use Available Resources
Your staff were likely told about the different types of support available to them when they first joined your company, but they likely don’t recall how to access the services.
When this happens, people in need can miss out as they don’t want to disclose their need for help to you.
If you offer employee assistance programmes, remind workers of what is available, detail the steps to follow and encourage people to make use of the service.
Don’t forget, employers have the same responsibility for employee health and safety while working from home as they do in the office.
CEO, Health Assured
3. Ensure Staff Have a Suitable Workspace
One of the immediate differences between working in an office and working remotely, will be people’s workstations. Some people will choose to work from their sofa, or at a desk that is unsuitable for long periods.
Employers have the same responsibility for employee health and safety while working from home as they do in the office, and improper set-ups can lead to both physical and mental health issues.
While few workers have a spare room that they can turn into an office, you can encourage workers to set boundaries to help create a difference between their home and work lives.
This can include buying equipment for workers to make sure they are comfortable or allocating a budget for staff to buy the items they feel they need.
You can also make suggestions such as requesting that employees don’t work from their sofa, but be mindful that all guidelines should be achievable by everyone and some people may have limited options.
4. Ask for Feedback
One of the best ways to encourage positive employee engagement is to make sure people feel heard.
Any time that you put new guidelines in place, you should give employees an opportunity to give feedback on whether they think the new rules will help or hinder them.
This is important in a standard office setting but becomes crucial when everyone is working from different locations.
5. Find Ways to Collaborate Effectively
The biggest struggle uncovered by the ‘state of remote work’ survey was collaboration and communication.
Employees who are used to being a part of a team are struggling by not being in the same space as others, adding to the loneliness that many people are already struggling with.
Others find that needing to always be available to respond to chat messages is preventing them from getting their work completed and adding to their overall stress levels.
It’s important to trial new ways of working that allow for people to engage with their colleagues without feeling the need to always be available to talk.
Using platforms that allow multiple people to work on the same document, paired with video conferencing, can be used to generate ideas and develop a plan for group projects.
Protect Your Staff’s Wellbeing Now
Many businesses will return to the office once it is safe to do so, but whether working from home is a short-term plan or you intend to work remotely indefinitely, it is vital that every worker’s wellbeing is protected.
Everyone has different mental health needs, and no one set of rules will work for everyone but by using these suggestions as well as speaking with your team about what they find helpful will ensure you build a strong remote team.
About Our Guest Writer
CEO, Health Assured
David Price is CEO of Health Assured: the UK and Ireland’s leading health and wellbeing provider. He advises employers daily on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, whilst outlining best practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress. He is a long-standing member of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).