We have teamed up with Welbot, an innovative, workplace wellbeing platform designed to improve employee health and wellness in the workplace. In the second part of our series, Welbot discusses how to create a workplace that centres on wellbeing during a global pandemic.
Embracing remote work has been a necessary adjustment for thousands of employers and millions of workers in the UK. In April of this year, half of adults in employment worked from home, with 86% of those workers doing so because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In July, around 30% of adults worked exclusively from home.
This mammoth swing towards home working has shown some signs of reversal, with a growing number of employees travelling to work each week and fewer people reporting coronavirus as impacting their work.
Help employees’ mental wellbeing when returning to work
Leaving the familiarity of a home work environment and returning to pre-pandemic office spaces brings unique challenges. Can your office accommodate the return of all your colleagues? What days will workers be in the office? Have workers travelled and how easy will it be for them to return? Will colleagues with children be able to arrange childcare? What new cleaning measures will need to be in place?
The rapid scramble to establish home working environments, practices and policies affected people’s wellbeing, and the withdrawal from these circumstances has equal potential to do the same.
Looking after your employees’ wellbeing should be of particular importance while managing the return to shared workspaces, so do what you can to make sure any challenges to mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing are recognised early on and are met with practical steps to minimise harmful effects to your colleagues.
Be proactive in understanding what concerns your colleagues have about returning to the office and communicate clearly about the steps you are taking to address them.
Planning for a shared workspace
In contrast to the unexpected need to shift to working from home at the start of the pandemic, employers and employees are in a position where they can work together and implement a considered plan for returning to a shared workspace, continuing to work in a distributed fashion or some hybrid combination.
These plans should be flexible and draw strength from the insights and lessons learned during this boom of home working. Understand what circumstances have been beneficial for your colleagues and see if they can continue or be replicated — more time among family, avoiding commutes and increased opportunity to exercise are all benefits that many workers have been able to enjoy that have had positive effects on their wellbeing.
The Global Work-from-Home Experience Survey reports that 77% of workers want to continue to work from home after the pandemic is over and that only 6% of respondents would not want to work from home in the future. So even though lockdown restrictions have eased, the 5-day 9 to 5 may have been permanently disrupted for millions of workers.
Find out Living arrangements can vary widely, and not all workers are fortunate enough to have appropriate dedicated workspace or equipment in their home and may share that environment with several people, meaning the office re-opening comes as a great relief.
Make the wellbeing of your employees a paramount consideration when prioritising who should return to the office and when. And for those employees who continue to work remotely, make sure you carry on paying attention to their circumstances and support their work-life balance.
Communication is paramount to building a community and supporting employees
Working from home may mean competing demands from family alongside professional duties. Working from anywhere may mean frequent travel and less stable connectivity and means of communication. And depending on how far-flung your colleagues are, time zones may be a relevant factor when designing projects, collaborating and communicating.
If your organisation operates in a remote fashion to any degree, make sure potential challenges to engagement, productivity and interpersonal relations are recognised up-front and are met with practical steps to not only minimise loss, but maximise benefit to your working environment.
Workplace tools like Slack, Teams and other instant messaging products can increase the availability and ease of speedy communication. Be mindful of boundaries, however, and the possibility of overwhelming your colleagues.
Good communication really is your best friend when it comes to supporting your colleagues’ wellbeing. Encourage them to give feedback honestly and often and keep them in the loop regarding changes to practices, routines and policies.
4 communication tips for work-life balance
When you understand the factors that disrupt successful home working you are better placed to address them. Keep these tips in mind to help your employees to achieve their ideal work-life balance and to feel comfortable:
- Provide the tools they need to communicate effectively. Keep the technology you use as simple and streamlined as possible and update security regularly.
- Set expectations. Check in regularly to understand what’s working well and what challenges need to be addressed in order to achieve objectives
- Tone at the top. Executives and managers should demonstrate the values, practices and behaviours that employees throughout the organisation should emulate.
- Understand your colleagues’ goals. Recognise that individuals will respond differently to the challenges posed by remote work and help each person to create a productive work environment.
As a general rule, uncertainty is undesirable in terms of wellbeing. The past few months have held more than their fair share of uncertainty for most of us, and though clouds appear to be thinning, clarity is not yet within reach.
Be kind to yourself and your employees and provide clear support and guidance where you can. Be unequivocal in your support for their wellbeing and be confident that looking after your workers while they work from home, work from elsewhere or return to the office will be rewarded in terms of satisfaction, engagement and productivity.
A remote workforce can be an enormous asset to an organisation. Flexibility regarding where your staff get their work done can help deliver an improved work-life balance for individuals: reducing commute time, expense and stress, while increasing productivity and time for family, friends and hobbies. As workers’ expectations have shifted, the opportunity to work remotely, at least some of the time, has gone from a nice perk to something much closer to a must-have.