Wellbeing in the workplace has been an important part of company culture for some time now. When you consider the changes in just the last couple of decades, most businesses have invested in ensuring their employees have the, often small, things needed to make their working life as pleasant an experience as possible. With the rapid move to more remote working environments, though, what it means to ensure employee wellbeing has changed. What is needed for employees, needs revision in both the fundamental question of what wellbeing means when working remotely and the practical application of support.
The bottom line is that working at home or in a remote office is different from the social and physical reality of the workplace. Therefore, it stands to reason that the methods and approach taken to wellbeing are going to be different in many respects. Accepting the ‘at home’ environment as the baseline for support rather than try to adapt workplace methods into remote methods is probably the best approach. Some support requirements may still be close to current practice. Others, such as mental wellbeing and development management, could be entirely different because of the circumstances.
The physical working environment still matters
In the laudable desire we all have to ensure that employees are coping with remote working, it is easy to demote the importance of the working environment. Remote workers sitting at kitchen tables or with laptops perched literally on their laps are running the risk of short physical injury and even long-term damage. Remote employees should be in a working position that is as close as possible to a good office set up. Easy to access information about posture, good seating, exercise breaks and so on may well be a worthwhile investment.
How do people speak to each other and the right person?
This is a common problem with remote workers. Teaching people how to communicate through technologies such as Teams or Zoom is one thing, knowing who to talk to about what is another. Maybe update the directories and guides to give a clear indication of who to speak to about specific areas. There is no way to just nudge the person next to you and ask if you need the answer to a quick question, and some small, niggling, problem can become a real issue.
Mental wellbeing is vital
This is an area that has seen a lot of focus in the last year or so, and with good reason. The additional pressures of working away from the work environment can be anything from the erroneous belief that we are not ‘pulling our weight’ through to real problems with depression and anxiety. A mental wellbeing programme is vital if you want overall health. Many businesses are making time in their team management process for mental health awareness and training mental ‘health first aiders’, among other initiatives.
All round reporting and check-in points
Following from the point earlier about knowing who to talk to, an extension of this is to ensure that reporting points such as annual reviews, daily check-ins, team meetings, and similar are clearly defined and happen as expected. These are sometimes the touchstones for time passing when you are working at home. You will often hear people joke they ‘knew it was Tuesday because the sales meeting happened’ and similar. There is a serious point underneath these, though. Schedules are a comforting reminder of normality and break the isolation of remote working.
Encourage social and app-based wellbeing activities
Small, social events are important. Why not arrange working lunches over zoom or have a buddy system? There is a growing list of really good physical and mental wellbeing apps available that could be suggested to teams as well.
There are many other options for encouraging wellbeing when working remotely, and a quick search on the internet will pull up some other great ideas. The main issue with working remotely is that it is exactly that; it is remote. The more that can be done to alleviate the feeling of isolation, the better.