The reason, of course, was the introduction of Government guidelines recommending that those able to carry out their professional duties from home should do so to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
However, now that the vaccine drive is well underway, and many offices across the country are starting to open back up fully, we’re not seeing a particularly rapid rush back to the workplace. Both employees and employers are keen for a bit of flexibility.
The Rise of the Hybrid Model
While organisations have largely shunned the idea of remote working for years, the past twelve months have shown many that, actually, working from home really can work.
Research suggests that some workers are more productive at home, and it’s estimated that businesses can save up to £10,000 per year on employee travel, cleaning services, catering, and utilities with remote policies. Remote working policies can also help to attract great talent by removing geographical boundaries, and create healthier, happier work/life balances in a bid to tackle growing rates of employee burnout.
And so, the future of work is expected to be heavily based on hybrid working policies, giving employees the choice to work from home, from the office, or a blend of both. It’s understood that around 1 in 5 organisations have already rolled out a hybrid approach.
While this is a positive step, it does mean that the role that HR plays in managing and facilitating employee wellbeing will need to change to look after remote workers.
The Challenges of Remote
Despite the wellbeing benefits that come with remote working - no crowded morning commutes, and the chance to spend more time with family - there are downsides.
Working from home can be especially difficult for some and, when teams aren’t all in the office together, it can often be tricky to pick up on subtle cues that someone isn’t happy. Sadly, when this happens, small issues can often turn into much larger problems.
When there’s new employees in the mix especially, who may never have met their team face to face, it can be even more challenging to understand what’s simply an employee’s normal behaviour, and what behaviours are perhaps indicative of unhappiness, worry, dissatisfaction, depression, or other wellbeing concerns.
Working from home can be difficult for employees for a number of reasons, including:
● Pressure to work longer hours to prove they’re being productive. It’s estimated that people working from home are working longer than those in the office.
● Difficulty separating the home life from the working means employees are often ‘always on’. It doesn’t help that a majority of remote workers work from the sofa.
● There’s a loss of social support from colleagues. While collaboration tools can help, they usually lack face-to-face interaction that’s so vitally important.
● Many employees are mourning the pre-pandemic lifestyle. Even if they enjoy working from home, it can be difficult to let go of our former way of life.
On top of all this, employers must consider the impact of the hybrid model. Are those in the office receiving support, care, or attention that those at home are lacking? Is there a possible case of discrimination depending on where an employee chooses to work?
HR teams must be on the ball, ensuring they’re not only offering the right level of support to protect the wellbeing of remote workers, but also to ensure that they’re implementing strategies that put everybody’s needs first, no matter where they are.
Remote Wellbeing Strategies
In a recent survey, it was found that 80% of workers believe that their employer is responsible for creating a better working world in the post-pandemic landscape; that’s more that cited themselves, the Government, and unions as the primary driver of change. And so it’s clear that employers need strong strategies to support workers.
Here are just a few valuable ways employers can focus on wellbeing at this time:
● Regular Video Calls
Although an employee may be away from the office, it doesn’t mean that you can’t check-in and have some face-to-face interaction… even if it is over a screen. Add regular appointments into your employees’ calendars to schedule screen-on video calls and give your workers a chance to discuss anything that’s on their mind, whether it’s work related or not. It’s also a good chance to gain feedback on your approaches.
● Employee Pulse Surveys
If you want to know how your employees are feeling, and what you could be doing to better support them as they shift to a hybrid working model, just ask! Regular surveys are a great opportunity to learn more about what’s working, and what’s not, and ensure your employees are remaining happy and healthy during this period of uncertainty. You could even introduce anonymous surveys to gain more authentic, transparent insight.
As restrictions allow, consider arranging local meet-ups for your employees to ensure they’re staying in touch with their team and receiving vital social support from their colleagues. This may be department-based, or more informal get-togethers between just two or three staff members. But remember not to force this. Some employees who are unsure about socialising post-pandemic may feel uneasy, so make this optional.
● Stick to Normal Hours
When we’re not watching the clock to make sure we don’t miss the train, or having to race home to get dinner in the oven, it’s easy to keep working past closing time and keep sending emails or picking up the phone to chat to employees. This can make it difficult for workers to shut off, and could contribute to burnout. Be sure to set an alarm on your phone to mark the end of normal working hours, and let employees rest.
● Go Beyond Emotional Wellbeing
With growing awareness of the importance of mental health, the term ‘wellbeing’ has largely become associated with emotional wellbeing. But it means much more. There are many forms of wellbeing that are important to employees and right now, following more than a year of economic uncertainty, financial wellbeing is a vital consideration. Look for ways to help your employees stay in control of their finances, like MyEva.
Learn more about MyEva
MyEva is a digital financial wellbeing expert designed to support employees with their financial wellbeing by helping to improve their financial situation with independent personalised guidance and advice.
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