Home becomes the office – Mental wellbeing and remote work
Companies small and large have moved to a work-from-home model in view of the coronavirus pandemic. This has brought a huge lifestyle change for most people and a keen awareness of well being. Change is hard, and a significant number of employees have been forced to build a new work-life routine. From our recent WorkFromHub survey, we clearly see two sides to the new norm of working from home.
On the positive spectrum of things, the flexibility of schedule, no commute, and more time with family has been appreciated.
But on the other hand, working from home has been super challenging! In our recent blog, we outlined from our studies that the negatives or challenges of working from home. Thet have been all about – inconsistent collaboration & communication, fighting loneliness, unstructured work hours, and distractions at home.
It is clear that adjusting to these new challenges has definitely brought upon more attention on mental health and well-being. In this blog article, we have touched upon some of the harder challenges with the current remote work situation. This is purely in terms of employee well-being, and what companies are currently doing or must look at.
Making up for Social Interactions
A top priority, especially for those who are energized by it, is the need to maintain relationships with co-workers and managers. This is critical not only to work performance, but to emotional and mental wellness. Lack in social interactions can lead to loneliness and depression.
While technology can serve as a boost to aid in this communication, it cannot be a permanent solution. To alleviate feelings of isolation, some companies such as GitLab encourage setting ‘virtual coffee breaks’ during work hours. This is for its remote-only team to foster collaboration and create a more comfortable work environment. Revelry has also dedicated a specific “watercooler” channel to encourage break-time chatter.
Debjani, the president of NASSCOM along with other industry leaders are positive that most large companies will put a hybrid model in place. A hybrid remote working model is where employees are required to work from an office for a couple of days in a week, and the remaining at home or remotely. A blended model could become the new norm as well, which allows for employees to make up for social interactions and creativity.
However a company chooses to do it, it is critical to make people want to feel connected and part of something at work.
Structuring Work Hours
As working from home has less structure, one may work too much and burn themselves out or the exact opposite, one may not be able to focus and not get as much done as they would at the office. The key to overcoming these challenges is to definitely set boundaries around time and space, so that “working from home” doesn’t become “living at work”.
According to a Forbes article, a 2019 survey by cloud infrastructure company Digital Ocean found that 82% of remote tech workers in the U.S. felt burnt out, with 52% reporting that they work longer hours than those in the office, and 40% feeling as though they needed to contribute more than their in-office colleagues.
Employees that are new to remote work should keep this in mind, as they may feel compelled to work longer hours and prove that they can be productive from home – especially with less “extracurricular” post-work options. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, lines between personal and work life will blur even for professionals that are used to working from home as an increasing number of schools close, meaning children will be home and working parents might struggle to separate responsibilities.
Employers on the other hand need to consider the hours they expect their employees to work. While productivity is important from a company standpoint, employers should not be pushing their employees to work extra hours leading to them burning out. Creating a work-life balance for your teams has never been more important!
Reducing Distractions at Home
There’s no shortage of distractions when working from home, and some days those distractions definitely seem to get the best of us. It’s difficult to maintain focus and mindfulness in an environment that you no longer have as much control as you perhaps had within a classic office environment. With a solid plan and an intentional focus, one can overcome those distractions and take control of their work day.
According to a Forbes article, Ashira Prossack defines some definite ways to overcome distractions while working from home. We thought the following tips from the article were definitely helpful! Including the first one – which is our advice:
- Breathe! – Take a break to take a deep breath in, and let all the things you cannot control go with a strong exhale. Staying present and at the moment helps to keep calm, and reduce anxiety.
- Stick to your regular work schedule – Keeping a familiar schedule and routine can help you stay focused because it replicates some part of your formerly normal working experience.
- Put yourself in do not disturb mode – Let your housemates know when you’ll be working in do not disturb mode as well as when you’ll be free again. Setting both busy and available times helps to establish boundaries.
- Set timers – Setting time blocks for working helps create a sense of urgency to get things done on time.
While these are effective ways for employees to deal with the situation, employers also need to be empathic. These transitions that their people are going through are tough. Safety is the utmost priority, so businesses should create an ecosystem that allows employees to ‘take-a-break’ from home. This could translate into allowing employees to work from office once or twice a week. Or even paying them an allowance for using a satellite office or productive workspace close to home.
Adapting to the New Normal
Remote work has been a rising trend for several years. Covid-19 is revealing the opportunities and challenges of WFH for many companies that may not have considered it an option.
Employees should take initiative in maintaining wellbeing within a home workspace. This includes creating a comfortable place in their home to work. If possible by incorporating exercise/meditation breaks and social interaction into their routine.
Employers need to find innovative and efficient ways to deal with this situation. An interesting way to deal with this could be for companies to provide employees with remote working allowances. This then allows them to set up a home office or work from a satellite space with all facilities accessible. This will allow employees to take that much-needed break from a monotonous routine, and allow more space for creativity.
WHAT COMPANIES SAY
Some companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., based in San Jose, Calif., in April started giving employees access to meditation and mindfulness services from Headspace Inc. Some 9,000 of the company’s workers have tried it, spending more than 500,000 minutes on the app.
At General Assembly, workers are using video collaboration tools to balance mental and physical wellness during stressful times. Employees who are certified in various fitness instruction like yoga, meditation and stretches, are offering to teach virtual classes to colleagues.
While some might love working from home, others miss their professional working space where they can interact with colleagues. Also, work in a more professional pace and rhythm. However, companies are moving towards remote working or a hybrid model of remote work. Giving importance to employee well being and productivity.
Many organizations to adapt quickly to the physical and mental health needs of its workforce. The future is certainly going to be about employee well being and productivity. Be ready for the new normal.