So, we are gradually becoming a nation of home-workers. No more commutes to the office, coffees from Costa and after work trips to the pub. We are all stuck at home for the foreseeable future.
Fortunately, if you are office based, it is relatively easy to work at home nowadays. We have laptops, file management systems, Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp, the list goes on.
What is more of a challenge is the effect working on our own can have on our mental health, especially for those who are used to working in a busy office as part of a team.
Employers have a duty to ensure their employees' mental as well as physical health, so here are a few easy things you can do to safeguard your employees’ health:
- Keep in touch. Isolation is a major cause of depression and you don’t want your employees to feel neglected. Use Facetime, video conferencing and other methods to stay in contact with your staff. Keep them updated about any changes to the business.
- Avoid long hours. It can be a lot more difficult to switch off when your kitchen table is also your desk. Home and work life merge. Encourage your staff to have regular start and finish times. One way of doing this is to have a team huddle in the morning and a quick ‘closing down’ meeting at the end of the day when everyone logs off.
- Provide training. If your employees are homeworking for the first time they may not be used to the IT systems and may feel overwhelmed by everything they need to learn. Check in on them (remotely of course) and make sure they are getting to grips with the new systems. If you have an IT helpline, encourage them to use it.
- Think about your employees’ individual circumstances. Not all of them will be lucky enough to have a spare room to work in. Some may be living in shared homes and having to work in their bedroom or may be sharing the kitchen table with their home-schooling children. Be adaptable, provide them with headphones and bear in mind that it may not be easy for them to join in with long video conferences.
- Exercise. You can’t force your employees to keep fit but why not suggest they use their usual commuting time for a quick walk or join in with Joe Wicks’ daily PE session. Perhaps you could do it together as a virtual workout.
- Support. Encourage employees to speak to their manager or HR if they ever feel isolated, left out, or lacking guidance or support. If possible, arrange a regular one to one chat with each employee. This will allow them to raise issues they may not want to discuss on a team call.
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you will have more as the weeks go on.
Stay safe everyone
At this extraordinary time it is right that the focus is on intensive-care beds, ventilators and flattening the curve on the graph of coronavirus infections. Yet it is also vital that we start thinking about the effect of this pandemic on our mental health.