The reality behind the dream: Life is suddenly very different…

Apr 11, 2020

Advice from the British Chambers of Commerce to employers and staff who are working from home as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

FOR many people, working from home has always been seen as a luxury. People will have dreamed of working from the sofa with the dog under their feet and a nice cup of tea. With no one looking over their shoulder or disrupting their train of thought.

But many people will now be realising that working from home presents challenges; from finding a quiet, comfortable space to work, to staying motivated and productive.

And this is no normal working from home scenario. Many of your staff will be juggling a family who are also at home too. Then there’s the elevated levels of anxiety and stress that many will be battling with as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

At this time, it’s vital to be looking after the mental wellbeing of your staff while they adjust to this new working from home reality.

Many people will be battling feelings of isolation. Life is suddenly very different for people who are used to working in an office environment surrounded by others. Those quick catch-ups over a morning coffee are suddenly no more. And people can’t just turn to the person next to them to run through a problem or idea.

So here are some tips for supporting the mental wellbeing of your staff while working from home.

EMPLOYERS…

Check in regularly

Back in the office, people would have had no qualms going over to their manager to ask a question or talk something through. But in a virtual team, you have to rely on picking up the phone, setting up a video call or sending an email. It feels a lot harder. And some employees will avoid reaching out unless it’s ‘urgent’.

It’s therefore important that you encourage managers to check in regularly with their team and maintain that close working relationship that they are used to. It may be helpful for managers to set up a daily or weekly video call with individual members of their team.

Set up daily team meetings

It’s easy for people to lose that sense of being in a team when everyone is working from home. And feeling part of a team is really important for good mental health.

So if you haven’t already, set up a virtual daily team meeting over a video platform like Zoom. Seeing each other face-to-face is crucial for that all important human connection, and will also help keep work moving forward.

Set aside time for group social interactions

As well as your daily team meetings, why not set up regular social catch ups for your team over video too?

Virtual happy hours, yoga sessions and a daily FIKA (a social cup of coffee), are all ideas you could implement to help your team to interact on a personal level while working from home. 

Encourage people to switch off

One thing that many people working from home struggle with is not being able to switch off from work. This can be especially difficult if people have set up their workspace in the kitchen or living area, and are then spending the remainder of their day in the exact same space.

Employers need to be communicating the importance of people not working more than their regular hours and ensuring people take a lunch break every day. Taking regular breaks throughout the day is important too – and your team need to know they can do that.

SHARE WITH EMPLOYEES…

Keep a structure

Having a daily routine can be important for good mental health and wellbeing as it helps people to feel more in control and grounded. For this reason, it’s really important that everyone creates a work schedule that works for them. And one that allows them to switch off at the end of the day.

Set priorities

It’s hard to be motivated without a clear focus at the best of times. But people might find they need that focus more than ever when everything else feels so uncertain. Writing lists and setting priorities for the week can help people to feel on top of their work.

Stay connected to co-workers

Everyone should be joining all team meetings or social interactions via video as much as they can. These regular check ins will help people to stay motivated and feel supported while working at home.

Outside of those scheduled check ins, people should be encouraged to pick up the phone or video call a colleague to catch up on work or non-work related issues. A ‘virtual coffee catch up’, if you like.

Stay active

It’s important that everyone gets up regularly and keeps moving. How many times do we get up while in the office to make a coffee or chat to a colleague?

These regular movements are vital for employees’ physical wellbeing. So get up, walk around, get out into the garden if you can, and ensure you fit in that government-approved daily exercise.

Ask for help if you need it

Make sure your employees know to ask for help when they need it. Not just for work-related issues. Above all else, your employees are real people and for some people this will be a really stressful time.

It’s normal for you and your employees’ to feel lonely or stressed when working from home. But as outlined above, there are things you can do to support both you and your staff to feel better. Maintaining regular communication, ideally face-to-face via video, is key.

If you or your employees are struggling, here are a few more resources you might find useful:

For up -to-date business advice on coronavirus, visit the British Chambers of Commerce Covid-19 Business Guidance Hub.

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