After the first national lockdown lifted in 2020, the BBC reported that 9 in 10 employees would like to continue working from home if they were able to do so. A Rightmove study from around the same time also found that enquiries from city dwellers for rural properties were up 126%. This potentially indicated an increased desire for working from home, as well as more outside space.
Yet whilst many people feel working from home is good for their mental health, around a third worry that it has a detrimental impact. 67% of people saying they felt less connected to their colleagues. Many people also do not have appropriate space to work at home.
If you are an employer who has employees working from home, you will be aware that this comes with both advantages and disadvantages for employer and employee. Nobody will get in late due to being stuck in a traffic jam (unless the queue for the bathroom is particularly bad!). But on the other hand, as the NHS point out, stress, boredom, anxiety, and uncertainty whilst working from home can have an impact on mental health.
As well as impacts on mental health, physical wellbeing may also be affected. For example, a recent global study found a 15% reduction in average daily step counts during the first outbreak in 2020.
In this blog, we provide tips for employers to support employees with their physical wellbeing whilst working from home:
Help Reduce Screen Time
The Chief Executive of Citigroup has recently introduced a “Zoom-free Fridays” policy to limit the amount of time spent on video calls and to help tackle “Zoom fatigue”. Whilst it may not necessarily be practical for all employers to introduce this exact approach, it is worth thinking about whether a video call is necessary in every situation. Or perhaps a phone call might suffice from time-to-time.
Medical News Today reports that video calls can cause tiredness, and in addition to this they encourage sitting still. During a phone call, however, there is an opportunity to stretch your legs, change posture. You can potentially even step outside briefly for a bit of fresh air and change of scenery.
Encourage Daytime Exercise
As the days become longer there are more opportunities to exercise in daylight hours. However, exercise in the middle of the day can help to boost productivity, positivity, and memory, according to an article by the University of Birmingham. Employers can play a role in encouraging employees to take time for this purpose by taking care to avoid scheduling lunchtime meetings.
If you organise virtual activities to encourage social interaction for employees working from home, you could also make a change from the customary quiz and introduce a simple exercise class that most people will be able to comfortably participate in, such as Adriene’s Yoga for Complete Beginners.
Check DSE Arrangements
As the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK has now passed, many people may have reflected that when they first started to work from home a year ago, they did not still expect to be doing so now! As such, it may be helpful to review the set-up of the home working environment, to minimise the risk of physical harms due to poor posture, etc. A Health and Safety Consultant explained the legal position regarding DSE (Display Screen Equipment) and provided us with some hints and tips in one of our previous blogs, which you can read here.
Understand Individual Needs
Some people may have lots of space at home and enjoy working there. Some will miss the interaction of the office. They might want to reclaim their kitchen table as a place to eat rather than work! As government restrictions start to lift, it is important to remember that not everybody will have had the same experience of working from home. As such, it may be beneficial to understand if any employees find working from home particularly challenging. They might have a lack of space or privacy, or factors such as loneliness. It will be easier for you to facilitate their return to the workplace when it is safe to do so.
If you have any questions about employee physical wellbeing or hybrid working, then contact a member of ViewHR today.
Our guest blogger:
Our blog this week comes from our friends at View HR. They provide support and guidance to help businesses manage an effective and efficient workforce. The consultancy offers a fully resourced HR service.
Our training team offer a range of support for workplace wellbeing. It includes Mental Health Awareness, Managing Stress, Anxiety and Burnout; and Grief, Loss and Big Change. Follow the links as shown, or take a look at the overview here.