If you are asking employees to work from home have you thought about their mental health?
Undoubtedly and understandably, there is anxiety surrounding us all due to a coronavirus – a potentially deadly virus that’s forced us into lock down. Add in the stress of no toilet roll in the supermarket, the mayhem of having to supervise our kids and their schoolwork, plus the growing popularity and necessity for many of us to be plunged into home working, and suddenly its harder than we expected to try and do our day job. For many individuals and businesses, this pandemic marks the first experience of working from home; many are being thrust into it without due consideration for not only the health and safety and facility needs of this style of work, but also without consideration of the consequences of isolation on our mental health and what this might to do employee performance.
A report from the World Economic Forum in 2019 pointed to the fact that 41% of remote workers experience high stress levels, compared to just 25% of office workers. The WEF believed that being ‘out of sight, out of mind’, coupled with the tendency for managers to become increasingly task focused whilst tending towards micromanagement of their distance workers, was partly to blame.
ACAS guidance is that “only suitable people should be offered the choice of regular remote working” with the term suitability not just the people but also their home set up. However, the situation we currently find ourselves in as a result of COVID-19 has led us to cast aside normal guidance and put nearly everyone, suitable or not, into a home working environment which is already highly charged. Think of the added pressures of having your partner also working from home, children around who a need to do school work and potentially the pressure and worry of caring for vulnerable family members at this difficult time.
Here are some tips from HSSS Ltd. for both managers and employees to help ease the pressure of working from home and to help towards caring for your mental health in these difficult times.
If you are a manager:
- Monitoring of employees – aim to regularly review your team’s output and their working hours. There is a tendency when working from home for employees to keep working past normal hours as there is no longer the need to pack up and go home. The same with breaks, especially if they are working in the kitchen, eating at the kitchen table becomes the new eating at the desk and they are not getting the benefit of a break in the day.
- Communication – don’t be too work focused when you speak to your employees; ask them how they are and be interested in their answer. Life is very complicated right now and we need to support and listen to each other. What impact is working from home having on their mental health?
- Work set up – ensure your employees can work comfortably and have all the equipment and technology they need in their new home office. A good working environment will reduce their stress levels if they can get their job done without causing themselves physical strain or having technical issues.
If you are an employee:
- Routine – get dressed in the morning! As tempting as it is to stay in your dressing gown it will help you switch mind-set from rest to work. Plan in your jobs as you would at work
- Work environment – think about where you are going to work in the house, the bedroom is not ideal in helping you separate sleepy time from work time.
- Take regular breaks – move about the house, get out into the garden. In these uncertain times we are limited to where we can go and what we can do but make the most of the space you have. Try and find a place where you can switch off for 20 minutes, have some fresh air and some sunshine if we’re lucky with the weather!
- Socialisation – again we a very restricted on this at the moment but make use of the technology, Zoom is very popular at the moment. Video calling instead of a phone call so you can get that extra level of interaction.
- Food – prep for the week as you would if you were leaving the house for work. Healthy snacks not only help the body but also the mind!
We all need to be looking out for each other in the circumstances we find ourselves in; video call your colleagues, keep structure in your day and focus towards coming out of this as a stronger employee and business!