Working from home

By Duncan Judd of Happy Minds at Work

Wellbeing when working from home

Working from home can have both advantages and disadvantages. There is the benefit of not travelling or commuting, not spending as much on travel to work or the benefit of not having to leave the house on those dark cold mornings. However, working from home can also have its downsides such as an increase in the level of personal isolation, that feeling of not having interacted with someone all day. Even if we speak with colleagues over the phone or via a virtual conference it is still not the same as meeting and talking to someone face to face. Indeed many businesses continue to have challenges because of this. The financial impact and ongoing burden for businesses due to the Coronavirus Pandemic has been incredibly high and working from home has equally become a new experience to manage for employees the world over.

For those who have managed to retain employment, 33% of employees working from home are worried about mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

With many businesses now learning how to try and balance the scales of maintaining a profitable company whilst dealing with the limitations of staff working from home, employers across the globe are developing new ways to try and keep staff motivated, happy and productive. Wellbeing certainly plays a large part in the solution to this. With working from home being the only option for some, businesses really need to ensure they monitor and evaluate any concerns that they might have regarding the health of their employees. Those working from home are now struggling with new types of pressures and circumstances that have to date been unforeseen. It is these new circumstances that could well start to affect employees’ mental and physical health in the long term.

Unless your employer provides regular occupational health assessments, it is always good to review your own personal standpoint in relation to the changes caused by working from home. It can often help to understand wellbeing from a subjective viewpoint. Ask yourself:

1. - What is the status of the mental health and wellbeing provisions in your organisation? What is on offer for employees? and are they effective?

2. - What training and/or support have you been given to understand how to work from home effectively?

3. - Are you suffering from any lack of wellbeing or mental health concerns while at home? Is there a point of contact at work to discuss this with?

4. - Has the future of the company you work for been affected by the pandemic? Are employees aware of any problems? Do you have any concerns about the future of your job? Is there anyone to talk to about this?

5. - Most importantly are the wellbeing services your organisation is using working? And do you feel able to cope working from home?

Many employees believe that working from home could be having serious effects on their health and well-being. In a recent study over 49% of employees when questioned were: worried about dealing with children at the same time as trying to work, concerned about a lack of physical activity, experienced anxiety, depression and had experienced an unexpected level of stress caused by the change in the way they now need to work compared to how work life functioned before.

Over work and a lack of movement can create physical issues and symptoms of compromised health. There is also the issue of trust at work that can create extra undue pressure and stress. Does your immediate superior trust the way you are working at home and if the reader is a manager themselves, how do you cope with trusting your team to get their work done when you can’t be physically with them? More trust is essential if businesses are to survive.

With mental and physical health being challenged, there is no doubt that the adoption of a lifestyle that supports the conditions for overall improved mental health on a continuous basis is what is required.

Mental health is different for everyone and yet we all have mental health and we know instinctively when it is compromised. All organisations should consider how introducing wellbeing could improve their employees’ health.

The most useful and engaging wellbeing plan is one that offers something by the means of regular processes of activities that act upon the mind to mitigate the onset of stress. Such activities can be highly effective at giving the mind a break from the cycle of strain that occurs during the working day. Meditation when practised for around 15 minutes on a daily basis has been scientifically proven to dramatically reduce the build-up of stress, and can dissolve away past stresses while helping to re-energise and reinvigorate the system, after which the practitioner becomes calmer, clearer, more engaged and productive.

Talking Therapies, scheduled sessions with Counselors and/or Life Coaches can ensure that any issues that an employee might be having at work or home that could potentially disrupt or reduce their ability to perform, can be resolved. Often meditation, mindfulness and talking therapy sessions can be some of the most effective ways to reduce stress and dramatically enhance one's wellbeing.

Many organisations now employ coaches to hold weekly talking sessions for employees, now that wellbeing and mental health has become a common discussion subject, relieved of its past stigma, many employees feel confident and happy to use such wellbeing services and it is actually a routine part of life for the younger generation.

Physical activity also has huge potential to enhance our wellbeing. Even a short burst of 10 minutes' brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. This is especially pertinent when working from home, and not having the usual physical movement around the workplace during the day. 

Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. Physical exercise, even in small amounts during the day can be essential to help the body break from its routine and can help re-start the natural blood flow patterns.

Screen breaks and yoga for bodily and back posture are also very useful ways to ensure that the body and mind receive some respite from the work cycle. Certainly when in a busy role that might require a lot of screen time, moving away from the screen for just a few minutes by taking scheduled breaks can ensure that employees have a balanced day, reduce their strain and will actually become more capable of producing more productive work.

76% of employees in a recent survey believed that their employer should be doing more to protect their mental health. Is yours doing enough?

A good wellbeing plan when working from home can:

Ensure employees are stress-free, happy, engaged and can work to a good performance.

Reduce numbers of absentees and days off with stress-related illness.

Help businesses retain great staff and attract future employees.

Increase company reputation as a great place to work.

Help employees fulfil their true potential

Help increase employee creativity, confidence, job satisfaction, energy, alertness, motivation and performance.

Create a harmonious workforce and a coherent team.

Wellbeing when working from home

Duncan Judd is has worked in the membership sector for over 15 years as Head of Membership for many organisations. More recently as founder of Happy Minds At Work, an online wellbeing service helping provide businesses with wellbeing solutions to suit their needs.

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