COVID-19 forced many companies into the world of remote working. As the government urged people to only leave their homes for essential reasons to help stop the spread of the virus, daily commutes were swapped for working at home. These social-distancing measures are life-changing and many companies will continue to operate remotely once the restrictions are lifted. Spotify, for example, the world’s most popular audio streaming service recently announced their decision to allow their employees to choose where they’d like to work. Cloud computing giant Salesforce have also declared the 9-5 workday dead. But what is remote working doing healthwise on a more micro-level?
Introverts And Extroverts
Introverts rejoiced at the thought of being home alone all day. Extroverts? Less so. Extroverts get their energy from being around people. Loneliness and isolation sets in if extroverts spend too much time on their own.
But it’s not only the effect on mental health that’s a problem – the effects of lockdown, quarantine and isolation has an effect on physical health too. With nowhere to go, no-one to wander over to in another department and a fridge full of snacks in your kitchen, lethargy and weight gain can set in. Once someone’s fallen down a well of low mental and physical health, it can be difficult to claw their way back up.
So how can employers prevent a nosedive in their teams’ mental and physical health in the first place? First, let’s start looking at how they can help relieve some of the isolation and loneliness.
Keeping Up Team Spirit
Social interaction is a big part of office life. We spend a lot of time with our colleagues – more, in fact, than we do with our family and friends. So it’s no wonder workmates are missed when they’re suddenly not there day in, day out.
Fortunately, there are ways morale and team spirit can be kept up when your team isn’t physically together in the same room. For example:
- scheduled virtual coffee breaks on Zoom, or other video call software
- chat channels on Slack, or other instant messaging service
- virtual after-hours social events on Zoom with happy hours, book clubs, and film nights, etc.
Don’t be worried by all this talk about chatting. Carving out some social time won’t result in a loss of productivity. In fact, there’s more danger of over-working than underworking when working from home.
To prevent burnout, leaving work at work at the end of the day should be encouraged. This can be done by:
- closing down all non-work related programs
- closing down all browser tabs
- turning off email notifications
The temptation for the remote worker to raid the fridge every five minutes is real. Unless the fridge is filled with healthy snacks, the risk of lockdown weight gain is also real. You can’t stop your remote team from raiding their fridge for chocolate. You can give them a healthy alternative though by arranging for weekly deliveries of fresh fruit or healthy snacks.
People who liked to hit the gym before or after work may find themselves gym-less now they work at home. Either their nearest gym is far away or it’s shut because of current lockdown legislation. An absence of a gym is no excuse for laziness though. The outdoors type should be encouraged to leave the house for fresh air and exercise by being provided with clothing and equipment for their preferred activity, e.g.:
- hiking boots, or
- running gear.
For those who prefer the great indoors to outdoors, perhaps they’d make use of home equipment such as:
- an exercise bike
- yoga mat
- pull-up bar, or
But what if there’s no room for bulky equipment? No problem. Exercise can be done at a desk with:
- a treadmill desk
- an under-desk cycle
- stepper, or
- elliptical trainer.
Sometimes though, the only thing someone’s mental or physical health needs is some time off.
Keep an eye on the holiday planner and see who’s not taking much time off. If you notice someone hasn’t had a day off for a while, remind them they’ve still got holiday allowance left. On top of holiday allowance, you can also offer ‘duvet days’ – guilt-free days taken off with no notice to do whatever they like – they can literally stay under the duvet if they feel like it.
But to really reward your staff with time off, you could offer a sabbatical after x number of years’ service. Whether your team has been remote for years or whether it’s all new to you, keep their physical and mental needs in mind.
There is a multitude of things you can do to support your remote-working employees. Make sure you keep an open mind and stay in contact with your team to best understand their needs. Ask them how they are doing and if there is anything else you can do to help and keep a creative and helpful attitude!
Author bio: Gary Bury is co-founder and CEO of Timetastic, an independent and profitable web app for managing time off work, used by thousands of companies around the world.
Photo Credits: Pixabay