Charlotte Armitage BSc (Hons), PG Cert, MBPsS, PPABP, FRSA
Accredited Business Psychologist, YAFTA Consultancy
The COVID-19 outbreak has already created the most significant level of disruption and havoc to our society than most of those who are still alive have seen in their lifetimes.
Within a matter of weeks, the lives of the nation have been turned upside down in the most drastic fashion with significant behavioural changes being expected in a very short space of time. Ordinarily it would take months or even years to safely facilitate behavioural change, but an execution of this is expected within a matter of days.
For many, the change to working from home will require substantial adjustment in how they view and utilise their home environment, which for many has been inextricably linked to relaxation rather than productivity, until now. There will be a psychological impact on many aspects of life, especially in creating a work-life balance. This balance is a fundamental aspect of healthy psychological functioning and therefore maintaining it is imperative for the wellbeing of your employees. When working from home, the boundaries between where work ends and home life begins becomes blurred. This makes it harder to focus and also harder to switch off, this can lead to a feeling of burnout resulting in an impact on mental health if not managed appropriately.
Advice for Employers with Employees Working from Home
Advise your employees to create a routine that allows them to maintain productivity from home. It will take time to adapt to the working routine, but if you encourage them to adhere to it, it will start to become their new normal. You can facilitate the development of new routines by being supportive of different commitments that people may have in the home, such as looking after children and the level of flexibility that these commitments command in their working schedule.
Be mindful that such a rapid and significant change in routine can have implications for the mental health of your employees. Be diligent of any behavioural changes that you notice and address these at an appropriate time, in an appropriate manner. Many people will be highly stressed with this change of structure in their lives and it is undeniably going to impact their mental wellbeing on some level.
Encourage your employees to create an office space to work from. If they have a specific space which is associated only with work, it makes it easier to maintain the essential work-life balance. Once they shut the door on the work-space, they can physically and psychologically shut the door on their work for the day, thereby facilitating the vitally important work-life balance.
Suggest that employees go out for a walk during the day to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. This is good for both physical and mental wellbeing. If people are self-isolating, just going into their garden for a change of scenery can provide a healthy break from the indoors.
Offer an online community for socialising. There is a social element to the working day and many people enjoy that aspect of their careers. The social element will be removed when working from home which may lead to people feeling jaded by their work. By creating an online network that people can join for a social experience with their work colleagues, it will help to maintain team cohesion as well as providing social contact for your employees. You could even organise a Friday evening meet up online where people can join with a drink of their choice, from their homes, to chat through how the working week has gone and what their plans for the weekend are.
Conduct a daily team meeting using an online platform. Social contact through online platforms can help to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation which many tend to feel when working from home.
Ensure that your employees are working appropriately at home by suggesting that they work from a desk or table. Working from the sofa or a bed will cause physical problems such as neck strain and back ache, yet people tend to be drawn to working in these spaces when working from home. Working from a bed can lead to sleeping problems too and therefore it should be strongly discouraged.
The change to working from home is going to be a difficult adjustment for all and requires a good level of trust and respect from everyone involved. Although unusual at first, managing your workforce remotely and utilising online platforms may provide your organisation with new, progressive ways of working which can be continued in the future.