Of course, the ideas of employee wellness and remote work aren’t anything new, but under current conditions, this is not remote work as we know it explains Chris Griffiths, the developer of ayoa.com.
Previously, ‘working from home’ wasn’t quite so literal – it could be working from a coffee shop or the library. It could mean hot-desking or going to co-working spaces. Before, socialising was an optional add-on for all of those doing their eight hours outside of the traditional office.
Needless to say, these same freedoms do not apply during the coronavirus pandemic. This global outbreak necessitates far greater restrictions on where we work in terms of location. In such an environment, keeping up employee wellness is more essential than ever. Naturally, the anxieties many are feeling can make working at a typical rate more difficult than usual. The good news is that some simple and consistent measures will allow teams to stay healthy – both mentally and physically – in this fast-changing landscape.
No agenda conversations
While many of us are discovering that, indeed, some of those meetings we had in the office really could have been emails, there’s no denying that sometimes there’s just no substitute for real face-to-face interaction. Booking in regular video calls is good for business, but when all your interactions are agenda-driven and subsequently all “go, go, go!” it means there is no space for general chat. This makes meetings more productive, but also more draining.
It’s important to remember that during these unusual working conditions we find ourselves in, colleagues may have a whole host of atypical set-ups in their home work environments. From kids running around to those living alone, the loss of the usual office community may be very hard for some. That’s why it’s crucially important that managers schedule short daily team catch-ups that have no work agendas. Instead, these conversations should serve simply as a way of checking in on your teammates. This gives them a chance to chat through any struggles they’re facing and help them feel connected with their peers.
Think of these video conferences as virtual water cooler moments. Research shows that face-to-face contact actually lowers your risk of depression – ot to mention the fact that talking about your feelings is very important for mental wellbeing and can offer a sense of relief and respite for colleagues who may have a lot on their plate.
For a lot of us, staying active is more of a challenge than usual right now. Gyms are closed, as are leisure centres – plus, depending on where you live, there is likely a limit on the number of times you can leave the house. Even in these difficult conditions, staying active is crucially important. This isn’t just because of the benefits it brings to our physical health, but for our mental wellbeing as well. Exercising releases endorphins which make us feel good and help us manage stress. So, with the extra time gained from commute-less days, working from home can be a great opportunity to encourage daily exercise. Whether you do an exercise class via video call or simply prompt fellow colleagues to get out for a daily walk, encouragement from others may just be the secret ingredient in keeping your team moving.
Of course, no one wants or expects hard and fast rules on exercise from their manager. And, needless to say, it’s no place for managers to give them. However, this isn’t about gruelling and punishing workouts, but recommendations for best practice to keep employees in a good, healthy mindset. For team members who are keen to participate in regular exercise, you could pair off into accountability partners – this way, you can set fitness goals for the week and check-in to make sure your counterpart is on track. Whatever way you work it into your day, fitness plays a key role in maintaining employee wellness during the current pandemic.
Many of us are adjusting to a new way of focusing as we work from home. Creating good, productive work environments (even when they’re on the kitchen table) are of course important. However, it’s actually equally important that employees remember to take regular breaks. With the sudden shift to remote work, many are eager to prove to their employers that just because they’re not in the office, this doesn’t mean they’re not putting the hours. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to team members overworking and eventually burning out.
To combat this, employers and managers should make it clear to the company that contractual breaks still apply even when working from home. Plus, some research has suggested that increased productivity in home workers is actually linked to the fact that they take a higher number of breaks than those in the office. It is also worth remembering that focussed daydreaming is key to creativity and problem-solving (which are two great assets in any job role). To practise this, spend work hours swotting up on the subject you’re trying to solve or generate ideas for, then take a break and let your mind wander. Whether you do some doodling or use this chance to do some of the aforementioned exercises, by the time you come back to work you’ll be refreshed and enlightened with a whole host of new ideas.
Every job is different, but for many, working from home during the current global climate is proving to be quieter than the usual 9-5 hustle. Boredom and loss of purpose are toxic for personal wellbeing. The good news is free time doesn’t have to become dead time. Getting creative is one of the best ways to keep employees busy with personal projects, and provide the business with great new material to keep driving forward as well. In fact, studies have shown that being creative fosters enthusiasm and energy.
With all this in mind, why not give teams with smaller workloads some time to work on creative projects of their choosing. Doing so will put you in good company, too. It’s a well-known fact that Google has long encouraged employees to devote 20% of their time to side projects. With more time for thinking from home, but less stimulation than usual, now may just be the perfect time to let teams run free and pursue those awry ideas they’ve never before had time to devote their energy to.
Chris Griffiths is the developer of ayoa.com – an intelligent digital workspace which allows teams to manage meetings, build plans, and action tasks – all in one app.