Do you remember when the concept of working from home, or ‘remote working’ was deemed as something of a, ‘nice-to-have’ perk? Or even when the term ‘flexible-working’ was something attributed mostly to working mothers?
Many, many years ago BC, (Before Covid-19), it was suggested that the trend would take hold and evolve. No one could predict, though, that this change would happen quite literally overnight, as almost half of the nation’s workforce was thrust into pandemic mode and the workplace shouldered its way quite boisterously into the home-space.
“In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work from home. Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”
It was just over a year ago that the first covid case was diagnosed in the UK. Lockdown was imminent. Were we prepared? Not really, but we realised we had to stay home to help the situation. Many companies and employers already had WFH policies in place, but to transition such a large number of employees to working remotely in a short amount of time was overwhelming.
For the worker, it was quite the adventure. The benefits of working from home shone like beacons through the Covid fog. No more commute, reduced costs, working in your PJs. It was a novel time. PE with Joe Wickes, clapping for our NHS workers. We laughed, and cried a little, as we juggled work-life, home-life, and homeschooling. But mostly, we did what we do best: kept calm and carried on.
A year on, how are we fairing?
I think it fair to say that the journey has been a bumpy one. It is an on-going sea of change. Each person’s experience of working from home has been different; some have most definitely thrived whilst some are barely surviving. The perks have slowly unravelled.
Are we fit? Healthy? Happy?
No more commute has taken away that precious ‘me time’ and a little exercise that was a daily given. It transcends to us being at our desks faster, resulting in an always-at-work mentality with longer hours of communication. Boundaries have blurred. Not only that, but during this time of furloughs and lay-offs, the pressure to perform and to prove our worth has led to burnout, and inevitably, disruption in our homes.
It depends on your home life.
Throw a couple of kids and homeschooling, some elderly relatives to care for, and a home to manage into the mix and it’s easy to see how some people are flailing under the juggling act of living and working through this pandemic.
For the employee who lives alone, so much time spent in isolation is completely detrimental to their mental health.
You are not just working from home. You are at your home, during a crisis, and trying to work.
This was the first point in the ‘working remotely’ guidelines issued by Canadian federal agency, Parks Canada which went viral in a tweet back in May 2020.
These principles resonated with millions around the world. To have an official authority recognise that, of course, we can’t be expected to work at 100%, that concessions should be made, we should put our physical, mental, and emotional health first, and that these are indeed unprecedented times, was a breath of fresh air in the highly competitive workplace.
A glance through the responses to this tweet proves that not all employers and companies shared the same view.
As an individual, as a leader, as an organisation, that is exactly what we need right now, and yes, even a year on. Compassion. Compassion for our colleagues, for our employees and our employers, and most importantly for ourselves. The situation is on-going, and we are still trying to find our way.
Look after yourself.
Keep it tidy and free from distraction.
Don’t allow household chores to slide into work time.
Make a list of to-do’s for the day and don’t stray from it.
Touch base with your team regularly.
A quick walk, a 10 minute HIIT session, just try to be active daily.
Look after the mental health of your employees.
Remember that word compassion? Here are some suggestions for how you can show your workforce some love.
And then have some more.
A healthy workforce is the heart and soul of every successful organisation. It will also encourage teamwork and camaraderie.
Share educational games and programs which will keep the children busy for a few hours.
create a time and space and for general office chit chat. Those living alone will benefit, and great ideas are often sparked and developed during these moments. Win, win.
Provide tips about bulk cooking and how to manage a household. Offer food delivery and laundry services.
Newspapers, online forums, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. Show them that you value their downtime as much as their on-time.
What for the future of working from home?
I am willing to bet that the future of work will become a lot more remote, and we are entering an age of the hybrid working team. With time, it will become easier, more efficient, and most certainly, the norm. The solutions to looking after the remote work-force and its mental well-being are out there, we just need to start using them.