A report by Nuffield Health has identified that remote working can provide employees with the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands, making it key to attracting and retaining talent. Nuffield’s Head of Clinical Research & Outcomes, Dr. Ben Kelly, commented that: “Remote working is likely to continue to increase, changing the workplace dynamic. Remote working can provide the flexibility to juggle work and home life demands, making it key to attracting and retaining talent.” In light of this, we outline the following 4 wellbeing considerations for homeworking.
The separation between work and home life is very important to maintain mental wellbeing. In The Journal of Vocational Behaviour, J.B. Olson-Buchanan and W. R. Boswell (2006) theorise that when employees set clear boundaries between their work life and home life, they’re less likely to experience conflict between the two fronts. They put themselves in a position to give both lives enough attention; in other words, they’re able to switch off one and concentrate on the other.
For example, when a segmenting person deals with personal issues at home, they can simply ‘switch off’ when they start work. Vice versa, if they’re experiencing pressures at work, they can ‘switch off’ once they shut down for the day. This can help to reduce work-related stress, anxiety, or other symptoms of ill mental health.
Two causes for concern are isolation and burnout. Most employees are already familiar with how the solitude of working remotely can impact mental health. The COVID 19 pandemic means significant change for those who are accustomed to and appreciative of conventional “office life” and a steady rate of social interactions at the office. Managers need to foster social and professional interaction, providing a sense of belonging to a bigger group. In our previous blogs, the Employee Energy Emergency and HR from home, we recommend increasing the frequency of contact as well as having social Skype groups (or similar). For further guidance on avoiding burnout, why not have a listen to our podcast here?
This is because of the high risk of burnout among employees that has been shown when remote working. A 2019 survey by cloud infrastructure company Digital Ocean found that 82% of remote tech workers in the U.S. felt burnt out, with 52% reporting that they work longer hours than those in the office, and 40% feeling as though they needed to contribute more than their in-office colleagues. This also correlates with our survey where HR professionals reported that 51% felt that there will be an increase in mental health issues due to Covid-19. Our research also shows that 43% think that their workplace could have done better coping with the crisis. Therefore, trust between the manager and the employee is vital for remote working to succeed in terms of the objectives outcomes and key performance indicators are set so that an employee can perform to their best remotely.
Using these 3 wellbeing considerations to your workforce can help improve the understanding of how your team is coping. Even with the best of practices and empathetic values, some employees may end up suffering in their mental health and wellbeing. If this is the case, we recommend you encourage open conversations with your staff, and see if there is anything you can do to help them through this difficult period. Perhaps, it may be a matter of recommending things they can do to improve their own wellbeing (refer to our infographic below). Alternatively, it may be identifying the root causes of the underlying stress, and then making a plan to overcome this. All in all, it is important to be emphatic throughout this period of change.
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