Working from home will be a new experience for many employees and their employers. Up until just a few weeks ago, of the 32.6 million people in employment across the UK, just under 9 million, 30% of the UK workforce, have ever worked from home in their current job for any period from a single day to a whole week. In the last few weeks, this figure has increased by a staggering factor, all of which was caused by one thing, Coronavirus.
This shift away from conventional offices requires employers to take steps to ensure that their employees remain healthy, wherever they work. This has now become even more vital as the vast majority of employees in non-keyworker roles are now based from home on an indefinite temporary basis, due to the government lockdown strategy.
Faced with this sudden, fundamental change to working practices, what should employers be doing to support and manage those workers, now working from home? We’ve outlined 8 helpful tips for employers, things they need to be doing to maintain employee well-being while their people are working from home.
1. Create a healthy work/life balance to promote home worker wellbeing
Ensure Directors and Managers maintain a positive work/life balance and are encouraging their teams to do exactly the same. We may not be as productive as we were in the workplace, many people are surrounded by their families at home and many other distractions. What is certain is that a Director/Manager cannot influence the staff members’ home environment and home working situation.
It’s easy to forget that Directors and Managers are also employees, therefore both management and employees need to ensure that they do not work longer hours and take fewer breaks when working from home / remotely.
Encourage staff to put reminders in their work/outlook calendar to create some planned structure to their day, employees need to feel they can still switch off at the end of the day. They can also be reminded to take at least a 30-minute lunch break as well as a 5-minute task break every hour.
If they can, encourage your team to get some fresh air and go for a short walk during the day, in line with government guidelines and you need to do the same. It’s important you look after your own well-being so you can also be there to support your teams.
2. Innovate and establish new ways of working
Working from home / remotely will require consideration as to how you will deliver work as a team. Employers need to ensure that collaborative working platforms will be used. How will you communicate with employees and how you support each other through the challenges ahead?
Some of it will inevitably be trial and error so it is also important as an employer, to think about how you will reflect on what’s working and what isn’t.
3. Check in with people regularly
This isn’t about monitoring, checking they are working or anything other than ensuring they are ok! Homeworkers will have enough pressures placed upon them as they try and work from home, in social isolation, often surrounded by their family, without thinking big brother is watching. Schedule the catch-ups in advance at a time that is convenient for remote workers where possible, they know the schedule of their own home.
4. Use technology to your advantage
Just because you are not in the same office, doesn’t mean you can no longer work as a team. Software such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or other communication/teamworking solutions can be used to connect with staff and enable them to work together.
It’s also a good idea to use a range of technologies, so your employees are not always typing or looking at a screen. Use as many communication channels as you can such as email, telephone calls, texts and video conferencing so you can actually see someone else’s face from time to time. Provide support and online training for staff to use the technology wherever possible.
5. Encourage everyone to use the support tools available to them
Whatever support your organisation has available for wellbeing, make sure everyone knows about it and more importantly, how they can access it. Many mental health organisations, now offer counselling sessions via Skype or phone and are looking to deliver their activity classes online, in an effort to keep people physically fit and well, both in mind and body.
There is however no ‘one size fits all’ solution to any of this and with that in mind, you should be discussing these things with your own teams to find out what tools they feel might be useful for them.
6. Identify increased health and safety risks
All of the above advice, while relating to the well-being of employees, also relates to the health and safety of your staff. The fact that staff are now working from home will still impact your health and safety arrangements and duty of care towards them and others in their households.
Initially, the home working may only be for a short period of time, in which case there is very little to do, the longer the situation carries on however, the more you will have to do.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you must consider:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
There will always be greater risks for lone workers with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong and this must also be taken into account as part of your decision-making around can the work be done safely. To address this you need to undertake a generic home worker risk assessment for all employees working from home.
There is no increased risk from Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work for those working at home temporarily. So in that situation, employers do not need to do home workstation assessments. For those people who are working at home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using Display Screen Equipment (DSE) must be controlled.
Generally speaking, temporary working can be considered 3 to 4 weeks and long term anything over that period, this means if your staff are at home for over 4 weeks, you will have to complete worker-specific risk assessments covering:
- Homeworking arrangements
- Display Screen Equipment (PC, Laptop or Tablet)
- Anything else relating to things you as an employer provide?
You are not responsible for their domestic arrangements, just the work-related issues, such as equipment, substances, hazardous substances etc.
Below are some example steps you can take to encourage staff to reduce the risks from display screen work, for both temporary and long-term home working.
- Break up long periods of DSE work with task breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) or changes in activity
- Avoiding awkward, static postures by regularly changing position
- Stand up and move around or do stretching exercises.
- Avoid eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time.
7. Monitor the pulse on home worker wellbeing
Monitor and measure the well-being of your home workers. It’s important to continue to assess how your team is doing. By keeping aware, you are better able to implement corrective actions to connect your teams and provide the support they need to feel safe, confident and productive while working. Implement a means of gauging how they are feeling now and it’s important to be consistent and monitor changes over time. They’ll be grateful for it.
8. Here’s how we can help you…….for free
As well as our unlimited Helpline providing detailed advice on all of the above, at Park City we are working with our partner, Engagement Multiplier and a new survey has been created for you to use, free of charge – Working from Home and Winning. Use the free survey to check in on your home workers. It’s a great way to connect with them and how they are feeling, it allows you to be consistent and provide ongoing support.
Click on this link for your free software survey tool…… Working from Home and Winning
We will be running a Webinar with Engagement Multiplier, to walk you through the tool and the surveys. Date is to be confirmed soon.
As always we are just a phone call or email away and can offer you further assistance as and when you need it. Park City can assist you personally during this difficult time and help you ensure your HR and H&S are being managed during the lockdown, as you implement your business continuity plans and when you can ‘return to some form of normal working’. Talk to us. We are here to listen and help.