After a brief taste of normality in August, the Government’s latest U-turn on returning to work will come as a blow to employers eager to get staff back into the office – and indeed to those employees who miss the buzz of office life.
Make no mistake – working from home certainly has its perks. No more rush-hour commuting, more flexibility with working hours and extra time with your loved ones is as close to utopia as it gets. For employers, increased productivity, a wider pool of talent to target and fewer overheads are all significant benefits.
But as evidenced by the volume of journalist requests relating to the struggles of working from home, some people are finding it difficult. In recent weeks we have been asked by broadsheet journalists for tips on those dealing with furlough, for mental health and wellbeing experts and for advice on how to ‘survive’ the next six months.
And the problems associated with working from home seem to gain momentum the longer one stays out of the office, at least according to a London School of Economics study. Participants in the study reported feeling that there was a lack of professional support from employers, stated they felt isolated, were not trusted by senior management to do their job and even thought that their professional development had been stunted.
With working from home likely to be in place well into next year, it is critical that companies implement and promote a working from home policy that outlines the support that staff can access. This could be what the company is doing to foster a culture of inclusivity, collaboration and communication or providing resources to help handle the mental and physical health impacts working from home may have.
So where should you start when it comes to establishing a working from home policy?
1: Begin by clearly establishing your staff’s responsibilities, their expected conduct and supply them with the resources required to succeed, such as chairs, a monitor or a height-adjustable desk. Most importantly, trust your staff to get the work done. We have heard that some companies have resorted to installing surveillance software to monitor staff productivity that records each key stroke they make during the day. The Orwellian overtones of this is a PR disaster in the making, and the supposed ‘productivity boost’ is certainly not worth alienating your staff.
2: Set regular working hours and encourage staff to stick to them. The Daily Mail recently reported that burnout is more ‘extreme’ this year, with a Sydney GP stating that she has seen more patients suffering from burnout in a month than she saw over the course of 2019. Encourage your staff to take regular breaks from their screen and urge them to communicate any concerns or feelings of stress to upper management. Set up an employee wellbeing fund if you can. For example, Definition has a dedicated employee wellbeing offering that includes access to GPs, discounts for gym memberships and a confidential counselling service. This means that we can take the steps needed to look after ourselves, but importantly, also feel very supported.
3: Keep your culture intact by arranging informal catchups. This could be as simple as arranging a Friday drink with staff over Microsoft Teams, to more elaborate team building exercises. There are a range of fantastic resources online that you can get inspiration from, such as Go Remote, which aims to drive remote culture and connection through custom games, events, and experiences.
4: Keep communicating. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working in silos, however dedicated team-based comms should be supplemented by company-wide communications. Let your staff know that you care about them by scheduling regular check-ins, even if they aren’t working on the same project as you are.
5: Promote your policy externally. A policy that puts employee wellbeing at the fore is an excellent way of recruiting talent and generating exposure. A good example is the recent work Definition did on behalf of the University of Leicester to promote more physical activity in the workplace. Researchers at the university have designed a resource kit that outlines the risk of sitting for extended periods of time, and some handy tips on how to break up long bouts of sitting. Definition promoted the resource kit nationally in the Mirror and on BBC Radio, and even managed to get the story picked up in the largest newspaper in Kenya, resulting in a sharp uptick in people signing up and downloading the resource.
Establishing the above will ensure that your staff are productive, happy and eager, which are all vital building blocks to business success.
For those looking to use their working from home policies to attract talent or generate media exposure on business success during these strange times, get in touch and let Definition’s team of communication experts help.