Coronavirus: Working from home, employee wellbeing and performance

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09 April 2020

At time of writing, we’re under a fairly strict lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus. The majority of us are expected to stay indoors, with only short trips outside for essential items and exercise. Other than key workers, we’re also expected to work from home, wherever possible.

This is a sudden, unprecedented change in the way many people work. Until recently, a million and a half people worked from home for their main job. With the coronavirus pandemic firmly in place, that number is now far, far higher.

Many businesses have been somewhat blindsided by this. Managing remote workers, their wellbeing, and their workloads is radically different to managing someone only a desk away. You’re likely worried about a lot of things, wondering what the effects of working from home are going to be on your employees...

 

Effects of working from home

There are a lot of effects on things like employee performance and employee motivation when working from home:

Positives

Some positives that come from spending your work hours in your own place:

  • More time: when you remove the commute, the morning rituals and the need to maintain an office wardrobe, people’s free time can skyrocket
  • Flexibility: being able to schedule work around tasks rather than the other way around means a lot—even if it’s just something as simple as being able to sign for a delivery
  • Comfort: some people don’t enjoy the rigid office environment, and work better in their sweatpants while listening to loud music. And working from home lets them indulge this
  • Cost: when you’re not buying a coffee every morning and an expensive sandwich every lunchtime, life is much cheaper
  • Less distraction: every office has a gossipmonger—much easier to ignore when you’re not in the same room

Negatives

...and some negatives effects of working from home:

  • More distractions: being surrounded by your own toys can be, shall we say, be a bit of a temptation
  • Boredom: connected to the distraction possibilities—it’s all too easy for the mind to wander and get lost
  • Cost: when you’re bored and distracted, it can be tempting to start snacking. Not only is this unhealthy when it becomes a habit, it gets expensive fast
  • Less exercise: some people rely on their commute for their main daily exercise. When the commute is a few metres to their spare room, exercise goes out of the window

The worst of the negative effects are particularly insidious, especially when remote working is thrust upon someone—by the sudden and worrying coronavirus pandemic— who wasn’t expecting it.

This negative effect is on the brain—the negative effect of working from home on mental health. Isolation, disruption to your routine, and the general negative atmosphere of this lockdown can leave even the most chipper remote worker a little stressed and depressed.

Luckily, there are some simple things you as an employer can do, and some behaviours to encourage, that will increase employee engagement, motivation and performance. All while they work wherever they need to.

 

How to motivate employees while working from home and maintain performance

  • Check in regularly: there’s a fine balance to be struck here, of course—you don’t want to be seen as overbearing and invasive. But messaging your people over Teams, or giving them a brief call to check how they’re doing, goes a long way
  • Set goals: not just for them, but for yourself as well. Lead by example and show people how hard you yourself are working—the best leaders inspire confidence in others, after all
  • Provide the right equipment: not just in terms of hardware—though it shows you have a lot of trust in people when you hand them a new laptop—but software, too. Good messaging platforms, easy to use VPNs and remote working portals all show that you’re putting the effort in to make this as easy for people as possible. And that’ll be rewarded with motivation
  • Remind people of their work-life balance: it’s possible that you’ll get an employee who grinds themselves into dust working all the hours they can. To an extent, that’s great, but you want to avoid burnout. Remind them to take breaks and spend time looking after themselves
  • Provide assistance: now more than ever, an employee assistance programme is vital for businesses of all sizes. When someone is stuck in their flat for 23 hours a day, the walls can begin to close in, and they need to know they have mental health support. With the NHS under a lot of strain right now, an EAP is the perfect way to let your people know they have a friendly listening ear to turn to.

 

Health Assured are experts in guiding people through the pitfalls of mental health. Call us today on 0844 892 2493 to talk about how we can assist you and your people through coronavirus and beyond—we’re your healthy advantage.

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