As we continue to move towards a relaxation of the current rules surrounding COVID-19, we start to consider what the ‘new normal’ might look like. We feel that a return to our previous routines may be a long way off, and home working will remain for the foreseeable future.
As an employer, we have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. Ensuring that our employees are safe, healthy and productive can feel like a significant challenge for many businesses.
Prior to the current pandemic, our teams have been supporting clients with employees working from home or classed as teleworkers for many years and developed a toolkit to support these needs. During the outbreak we’ve been working in collaboration with our clients to enhance that toolkit, providing ergonomic and wellbeing support.
Our services include:
Self-Assessment – An online risk assessment to be completed and submitted for review;
Triage – Survey results are triaged by our DSE Assessors or Ergonomist to identify employees at risk or requiring further support;
Ergonomist Support – Ergonomists available to support employees. Local Ergo Support teams through Skype, bluejeans or zoom to provide advice and support on workstation set up, ergo risks and healthy work habits;
Online Training – Help your teams with ergo set up knowledge and provide advice and support. Delivered over Skype, bluejeans or zoom; and
Ergo Cafe Drop-in Sessions – Online drop-in cafe sessions once or twice a week for 30-60 mins. Designed for people to call in and ask questions/request advice regarding any issues they are experiencing while working from home. Delivered over Skype, bluejeans or zoom.
As a consultancy, we see working from home playing a significant part in our work life for the foreseeable future. As a result we are investing in new technology to manage those risks and we’re also in the process of developing an integrated risk assessment, support and training App for businesses of all sizes.
For more information on our support packages or our Home Working App, please contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have a few articles with some tips for working from home:
Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, lots more of us are finding ourselves working from home – some for the very first time. This is a new experience for all of us, in a state of lockdown, being confined to the house, potentially with partners and children adding to the stress of working from home.
In light of this, our team has compiled some useful advice to help with focus, motivation and morale whilst working from home.
Make a schedule
It might not be feasible to work your normal hours when working from home, so don’t force it. Prioritise your workload and arrange your day in a way that is manageable time wise, allowing you to remain focused. Explain to your manager why you feel it would be best to adjust your hours before hand to make sure that it’s ok to do so. Let your colleagues know what your working hours are so that you aren’t dealing with calls/emails when trying to get through the other things. If possible, use a shared calendar so that everyone’s hours are available to make this experience easier on everyone.
When you have finished your day’s work close the laptop, step away from your workstation and relax. It can be difficult to find a balance between work-life and home-life in our current situation. Being caught up in work all the time is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable.
Have an efficient workspace
A good, well set-up workspace is a must when trying to work from home. Ideally you want to have a space with minimal distractions – a separate room in the house from everyone else is recommended. Setting up a workstation on a dining table, if possible, is also a great way to get yourself in the right frame of mind for work – it can mimic the feeling of being at your desk in the office. If you have to be in a space shared by other people, let them know that you are working and would appreciate the least amount of interruptions as possible. Set time aside throughout the day for them so that they don’t feel ignored – especially if you have young children at home that don’t understand what working means.
You should avoid working from your bed or your sofa if possible. While these places portray comfort and coziness, they won’t allow you to have the right mindset to get work done. You want to set up a desk space to avoid harming your back or neck as well as maintaining some normality.
A great way to set up a temporary desk is depicted in the picture below provided by Ergonomic Trends. Split your workspace into three sections, where everything will have its own place and purpose, preventing clutter and making your work-day less stressful.
Taking regular breaks can improve your workday exponentially. It reduces eye strain from staring at your screen for too long, prevents body aches and pains, and actually helps with understanding and retaining information. There are lots of ways to ensure that you are taking breaks without lacking in work progress. One well known technique is the Pomodoro Technique. It’s based on setting a timer for 25 minutes of work followed by a short break (up to 5 minutes). Each 25 minutes of work is called a session and 4 of these results in a longer break (15-30 minutes). There are lots of apps available to download onto your computer or laptop that will keep count of your sessions.
During these breaks, step away from your workstation, move around, interact with your family, check social media, stretch. These are all allowed, you’ve earned them.
Self-isolation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be in contact with each other virtually – just not physically. Set up a group chat with the people you work with to keep up to date on what they’ve been working on and for direction. Set up check-ins but keep in mind that they can also be distractions from what you are trying to achieve. Our team has a weekly video chat scheduled so we don’t forget what each other looks like!
But it’s not all about work even if it that’s how it may seem. Contact family during your breaks, find out how they are. Have a joke with your friends, group call the people you can’t see right now. Socialising is good for you and can boost your mood, which in turn will increase productivity and morale.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time isn’t good for anyone and it’s something that we can become guilty of doing when working from home. Precautions should be taken on exposing ourselves to the outside world right now, but we still need fresh air.
Try to go outside for exercise even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day. If you have a family, go out in the garden with them or go for a walk nearby. If you do see anyone, follow government advice and stay at least 2 metres apart.
It’s a scary time right now but it’s important to support each other and try to make routines to manage our days and stay sane. It’s important that we recognise we should be a little less tough on ourselves during this time. We’re all trying our best to continue to work and take care of ourselves and others despite the situation.
To read our article on the IES’s working from home wellbeing survey, please click here.
If you require any further information or support, please don’t hesitate to contact us on either t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: email@example.com
The Institute of Employment (IES) recently carried out a survey to evaluate the physical and mental wellbeing of employees working from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of employees have been forced to work from home raising concerns around the possible impacts this might have. Employers will have to attempt to manage these impacts including deterioration in mental and physical wellbeing, work morale and motivation.
Their survey considers the following:
Whether employees feel trust with their employers
Whether they are worried about job security
Have employees lost sleep worrying about finance, family, health, work-life balance, etc, and is this affecting their work morale?
Launched in March 2020, the survey was designed for homeworkers to measure their wellbeing whilst working from home during COVID-19.
The survey asked homeworkers, ‘how often have you had this condition in the last 2 weeks compared to normal?’ More than half of respondents suffered from aches/pains in neck, shoulder and back, eye strain, headaches or migraines and loss of sleep from worry resulting in fatigue. Less than half experienced aches/pains in knees, hips, wrist/hand and elbow, heartburn or indigestion, leg cramps and chest pain.
These results illustrate that working at home as a result of COVID-19 is having an affect on many components of employee physical health. It also illustrates that a good ergonomic set up plays a significant part in employee’s physical wellbeing at work.
It’s clear that the current situation is also having a detrimental influence on the emotional wellbeing of homeworkers. A significant amount of employees stated that they don’t feel rested, calm or relaxed. In addition feeling inactive and having no interest in their day, was noted. Some respondents also felt anxious about the health of family members and friends.
It was recorded that respondents were also worried about family finance and job security. Loneliness and isolation featured heavily in responses with many suggesting they don’t feel cheerful or in good spirits.
The survey used the WHO-5 well-being index to determine the mental health of employees working from home. This suggested that those who are suffering most are:
looking after elderly relatives;
living with parents or renting;
new to home renting;
working more than 10 hours longer than contracted per week; and
in less frequent contact with their boss and younger workers.
These categories cover the vast majority of employees working at home. It’s clear this situation is having an impact on thousands of people’s mental wellbeing across the country.
Other health concerns
It was noted that over almost half of respondents worried that they were exercising less, they did not have enough time to get their work done and were working long and irregular hours.
A significant percentage of home-workers admitted they were under too much work pressure, their alcohol consumption had increased, they were eating less healthily and had continued working despite illness.
Action for employers
The overall findings from the survey suggest that there has been a significant decline in both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees working from home. Results show that musculoskeletal health, diet and exercise has declined in the majority of homeworkers.
However, the effects aren’t just physical, increased emotional concerns over finance, isolation, energy, work-life balance and family health were also recorded from the respondents.
It’s clear that many employees working from home are facing a challenging time and support from fellow employees and most importantly employers is crucial during this crisis to maintain wellbeing, work morale and motivation.
There are a number of simple steps that employers should consider taking, as well as the normal compliance requirements around ergonomic set up (Display Screen Equipment). We recommend supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of employees with regular check ups – informal messaging groups or virtual coffee mornings are a good place to start. Regular contact with bosses and colleagues, particularly those at ‘high risk’ is essential. In addition, access to an Employee Assistance Programme would be valuable.
We would also recommend that performance targets and monitoring may need to be adjusted accordingly, this may involve the reallocation of tasks and priorities.
If you would like support developing strategies for managing the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees who are working from home please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org