To comply with lockdown measures many in the UK are working from home. For organisations and employers, this presents new challenges – especially when it comes to managing mental health risks and providing support.

The realities of working from home

As we go into week two of Coronavirus lockdown, for many, the realities of working from home are now becoming apparent. Although technology made the transition to home working relatively easy for many, some are working in less than ideal environments.

Parents working from home

Many parents are working from home and caring for children who are unable to attend schools, as they have been closed for the foreseeable future. Employers need to consider what effect this might have on an employee’s mental health, and their ability to complete their normal duties.

To support employees in this position employers should try to be more flexible. For example, those with childcare responsibilities may work better if their working hours are relaxed, so they can complete tasks when their children are attending online lessons or asleep.

Good communication is vital and employers should encourage that line managers take steps to identify employees who are carers so they can put strategies in place to provide support to those who require it.

See our full COVID-19 Health and Safety Advice and Guidance

Conflict at home

Employers should consider that an employee’s mental health might be affected by conflicts at home, which may have been caused or exasperated by lockdown measures.

The UK government has asked that people only leave their homes when they have to, allowing for just one exercise excursion, close to home, a day. These measures mean that those who live together might be under more pressure than before.

As with parents, employers should make efforts, within reason, to support those who may be suffering from mental health issues as a result of this. Technology has helped to make remote working possible for many – but it can also be beneficial to socialising and providing support in lockdown.

Video calls can be used to maintain office and personal socialising. Maintaining employee social events remotely can help to prevent feelings of isolation and can ease the mental health issues employees may feel as a result of conflicts at home.

Maintaining routines

Sticking to a regular routine when living and working in a lockdown can be difficult, especially for employees who didn’t work at home regularly prior to Coronavirus. The blurring of work and home life boundaries can lead to burnout and a decline in an employee’s mental health.

Employers should encourage that employees create and maintain a reasonable routine, which takes mental health into account, to create a healthy work-life balance.

Line managers should communicate and supply resources that encourage this among those working at home.

Promote healthy habits

To decrease the risk of mental and physical health issues, employers should encourage that employees maintain healthy habits whilst working from home.

Staying active is important – but maybe more difficult in lockdown as gyms and leisure centres have closed and in the UK and time outside for exercise has been limited to once a day. Where possible, employers should share resources and guidance which helps employees stay active. There are many online fitness services those working at home can use to stay active. Online exercise classes can be streamed on TVs and many feature workouts specifically for those wanting to stay active at home without any equipment.

Sleep is also important for maintaining physical and mental health. For many, their normal sleeping habits may have been disrupted as a result of a change to normal routines, boredom, stress and anxiety. As with fitness, there are many sleeping resources, apps and services which can help to improve sleep habits.

Employers should recommend that those working from home aim to sleep 7 to 9 hours per night. Research shows that less than 5 hours of sleep per night can increase a person’s risk of cardiac arrest by up to 500%, compared to those who sleep more than 6 hours per night.

Communication

Employers need to prioritise good communication among their remote workforce. In these uncertain times many employees are likely to feel isolated, and this can increase existing anxieties or those specific to Coronavirus.

Communication is key to identifying employees at risk of mental health issues and to employers providing the correct support. Technology means employers can provide those working from home with access to self-assessments, training and resources digitally – all of which can help to reduce risks and improve home working effectiveness.

Here at Cardinus we have experience working with global organisations during times of crisis. We are experts when it comes to risk assessing and have a portfolio of online resources and training specifically for home workers.

Contact us to learn more about the services we can provide to employers managing employees working from home, as a result of Coronavirus lockdown measures.

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