01 Dec On Reflection
The second lockdown is coming to an end and tougher Tier restrictions will affect the majority of the UK. Many workers continue to work from home or have gone back to home working after a brief return to the office in September.
During the first lockdown, everything was new and revised HR policies in respect of health and wellbeing were quickly implemented or adapted. Now maybe a good time to reflect on what was put in place to ensure they are still being implemented or consider if, following the first lockdown experience, whether anything could be improved or additional measures are required.
Desk ergonomics form a huge part of working from home, some people are missing their office chair as they wriggle uncomfortably on their dining room chair, or dare I say it, sitting/half lying down on the bed with their laptop balanced on their legs! (Yes, we know who you are!)
If working from home is the new way of working an online Desk Assessment survey will highlight any issues and investment by employers in proper office equipment and furniture is a good long-term investment reducing the possibilities of sickness absence due to musculoskeletal issues and eye strain.
Are employees working the same hours as they would do in the office or are the boundaries between work and home blurred with extra hours of work slipping in? What policies are in place to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them? Are the arrangements working?
Winter is here
Now that we are lunging towards the Winter months and colder weather, issues such as an increase in heating bills could be worrying some people. I sometimes sit at my computer looking like Michelin man with my many layers trying to keep warm. Mind you, that is also because I like to get the air through the house by opening all windows and some doors as ventilation is a big concern with regard to the virus. I have to say that as the days are getting colder and shorter, the time the windows are open is decreasing. But that aside, and being serious for a moment, I can make light of it but to some people, it could be a real concern and cause resentment that heating bills have increased.
How would you address those problems?
Day to Day wellbeing
Is everyone being encouraged to incorporate time in their day to move away from their work, have a break, and a good stretch. Making time for everyone to:
Get up and move at regular times during the day and not just when it’s lunchtime or a sudden craving to raid the kitchen cupboard when working on something difficult.
Set a timer, say at 10 minutes to the hour, to get up, have a stretch, go for a walk, or just sit quietly but away from the computer. It is important to move, otherwise, you will feel stiff and achy by the end of the day and probably more tired than if you have given yourself a decent break.
And talking of lunch, make sure you do have a proper lunch break too, and drink fluids, preferably more water than coffee, during the day. We need to make a habit of incorporating all of these things into our day.
I think most people were pretty good at this in the first lockdown but as time goes on, we may well have fallen out of the habit of making sure we are still looking after ourselves. The time of year doesn’t help either with the colder weather and shorter dull days.
Feeling stressed about work gets in the way of positive feelings and maintaining good health and wellbeing habits. A main aggravator of stress is worry and uncertainty of what is going to happen in the future, employees wondering where they stand so far as their place in the team is concerned or the company’s future plans? It is a cliché but effective communication really is important. How are you as an employer communicating with your employees, is it effective, is it regular, what channels are being used? Is there an opportunity for those who are worried to have their say and their concerns addressed?
This is where Wellbeing Champions are useful. Could they be the point of contact in the firm for people struggling to cope mentally? Many people will suffer in silence rather than talk to someone but if there is a specific person there to help it could make all the difference.
Not everyone’s home environment is conducive to work and there could be home and family issues that make life difficult. What procedures do you have in place to ensure you are aware of any problems or to identify potential problems and how they can be addressed?
How comfortable do people feel reporting a day’s sick leave if they are not feeling well or does the guilt factor trip in and so they soldier through?
This is also the time of year where employees are often on leave as they have holiday entitlement to use before the end of the year. How is that going to work, particularly this year where many people just did not take a holiday and so may well be on leave from now until after Christmas? Are employees being encouraged or discouraged to take their holiday allowance?
Recent surveys have shown a positive result with regard to employees working from home but one thing they do miss is the social interaction with colleagues. Do you have scheduled meetings where everyone can communicate online but where the subject matter is anything but work, i.e. an online quiz or just break out rooms where people can chat and catch up?
How about incorporating a 15 minute session at the beginning or end of remote team meetings where you all take part in a Zoom session of mindfulness or Desk Yoga. Something everyone can join in with and talk about it and feel part of the team.
No-one knows for sure how the working environment will be shaped in the coming months but ensuring everyone is kept informed and supported will encourage a positive mindset and feeling of being an integral part of the process.