Looking after homeworkers

Looking after the homeworkers

Many of us are a few weeks into home-working and two things have become apparent: firstly it’s perhaps not the enviable option we thought of during those lengthy commutes, and secondly it looks like the home office will be a way of life for some of us for the foreseeable future.

As employers, our duty of care doesn’t end in the office car park, so what do you need to consider to support employee wellbeing in their homes? The success of your business at this difficult time is dependent on your employees just when your interaction with them, and understanding of their workloads and priorities, has taken on a very different slant.

So what does good management (and in many cases overnight switch) of a home-based workforce look like, and what can you do to encourage their wellbeing and productivity?

1.  Keep motivated

Colleagues need to know the work they do is important and part of an essential service for customers, contributing to and valued by the business. Working in isolation can make it harder to see the bigger picture, particularly for anyone who has been redeployed onto unfamiliar projects or tasks. Taking the time to explain the significance of individual efforts, and feeding back on their performance, can keep them on task and motivated.

2.  Keep in touch

Engagement and communication are key to maintaining morale. A company intranet post or  emails can be based on regular themes relevant to your business and people. This might be as simple as daily wellbeing themes such as  Mojo Mondays, Time For Me Tuesdays, Wellbeing Wednesdays – with messages around mood, energy, self-care and keeping active, plus the opportunity to share pictures and personal stories. Links to external sources like Mind, the Mental Health Foundation or the Sleep Council, plus interactive activities like the Pomodoro Technique and examples of home exercise from the NHS, can encourage colleagues to engage with your campaign. 

3.  Keep talking

Working from home can be lonely. Don’t rely solely on email and messaging, pick up the phone and have regular calls. Yours may be the first human voice a colleague has interacted with that day, perhaps even that week. Speaking to someone in place of an email means that when you ask “How are you?” and they reply “Fine”, you’ve got a chance to listen to their answer and judge if they really are adjusting to life away from the office. Some conversations flow better verbally than over email. A phone call may take longer, but have a bigger impact and build a sense of connection and care.

4. Keep it personal

We don’t yet know the toll of this pandemic - on the economy, on society and on us as individuals. Every one of us is different and will have our own way of dealing with life and work as it is now and how things develop longer term. You also need to recognise that depending on the size of your business, you may have vulnerable employees who have never disclosed their underlying health conditions. And how much do you really know about your workers’ home lives? The point is, you simply cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach, and nor should you leave managers with responsibility for the wellbeing and productivity of a sudden and sizeable home-based workforce. You need to check in on their welfare too.

5.  Keep it consistent and correct

Much of this will take a new, or revised approach to employee management. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. It’s still appropriate to signpost colleagues to existing services such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). Other parts of your organisation will have expertise that can be applied to these uncertain times too. Work with HR and learning and development departments or providers to deliver the support needed by colleagues working from home. Unfortunately there is a fair amount of knee-jerk advice and misinformation out there amid the chaos, so make it easy for yourself and provide up-to-date health advice and guidance as it comes from the Government and trusted sources such as Public Health England or NHS Choices.

 

None of us could have foreseen the current situation, none of us can predict how it will develop and what this might mean for our businesses. But what will set apart those organisations that survive the damage inflicted by the pandemic from those that founder, and perhaps help them emerge stronger, is the proactive steps taken now to protect the wellbeing of their homeworking staff.

Darea Flanagan is E.ON’s Wellbeing Engagement Expert

An energetic and engaged wellbeing professional, Darea is passionate about challenging culture and improving mental health and wellbeing in corporate life whilst ensuring organisational wellbeing remains a focus with the Board and leadership team at E.ON. Her award-winning approach to supporting wellbeing for staff comprises an arsenal of engaging and evidence-based activities and campaigns carefully designed to inspire and motivate colleagues to be resilient and the best they can.

Published April 2020