Monday 11 October 2021 at 10:06pm

Working from home wellbeing – rising to the challenge of hybrid work

Dr Minha Rajput-Ray is a conventionally trained doctor with 20 years’ experience as a Registered Osteopath & Naturopath. Her unique combination of knowledge and skill bridges conventional medicine with holistic modalities. She provides innovative solutions for pain, chronic disease and work health. Her practice guides patients, families and carers from injury and illness to sustainable wellness.

Here, she offers her tips on successfully planning working from home wellbeing for your employees…

 

Many employers – multinational, medium sized and small businesses, have offered a hybrid working arrangement to their workforce as COVID restrictions have lifted. PWC has allowed 40,000 of its US-based workforce to continue working entirely remotely.

As a holistic medical practitioner, I support companies prioritise working from home wellbeing as part of their hybrid work strategy. This is essential to mitigate common pitfalls for ill health with ‘knock on effects’ on employee capital, productivity and organisational return on investment.

 

My tips:

Create sustainable practices to support working from home wellbeing

  • Outline what support and assistance you will provide via a mutual agreement and ideally within the employment contract. For example, purchasing furniture or ergonomic aids, providing a wellbeing schedule of activities, or funding to upsize housing.
  • Be clear about what responsibilities you expect employees to take for their own wellbeing at home. Ensure that those are being communicated empathetically via management.
  • Decide what your policy will be on informal socialising. The aim should be ensuring parity between in-office and remote workers, rather than lack of visibility for remote workers and an increase in informal career opportunities for in-office staff.

Assess, educate and support employees to develop good working from home wellbeing practices

  • Work out the challenges your employees are facing – zero hours contracts/entry level employees will have different challenges to senior managers; call centre staff will have a different experience to a web developer. Encouraging openness about other employment or gig economy commitments, domestic pressures, home working set up, etc will enable you to support each employee as required.
  • Desk assessments can be conducted virtually to risk assess for musculoskeletal factors. Although this was important during the pandemic, it is even more critical now remote working is the long-term norm for many people.
  • Providing equipment to ensure wellbeing at home. At a minimum, this should be ergonomic furniture and computer equipment, but you might take it further. Employee perks could include active opportunities to encourage wellness, rather than mitigating the potential negative impacts.
  • Provide eye health information to every employee: hybrid, remote or in-office. The impact of screen use on eye health has been well documented since COVID began, with more than 1 in 3 people reporting deterioration in their eyesight during the pandemic.

Establish a strong system of regular manager and peer check-ins

  • Provide all managers with training in how to tackle challenging topics with their team members. Key areas, such as supporting mental health, awareness of suicide prevention, and an understanding of how to facilitate discussions around domestic abuse should all be part of this training, enabling managers to support their teams with compassion and empathy.
  • The effects of poor sleep, substance misuse, or indeed COVID or similar viral illnesses impair decision-making abilities. Because they’re working alone, remote workers are more likely to continuing to work whilst below par. A robust check-in system for fitness to work can help to ensure that employees aren’t working when it’s detrimental to their health or the company’s reputation.
  • One of the main benefits of work from home has been better mental health for many people. However, not everyone’s experience is the same. Loneliness and isolation in particular have been a negative mental health impact for many. The key here is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to mental health for remote workers, just as there can’t be for full time office staff. It is essential to encourage open, honest and empathetic dialogue on a regular basis, backed up by robust manager training.
  • Provide regular opportunities to check in with managers, peers and the wider company. This gives touch points for visibility around the quality of your work, concerns of all kinds to be raised, and collaboration to happen across the business. The pandemic has provided a real opportunity to level the playing field.

Consider everyone as on a case by case basis

  • As a holistic medical practitioner, I would emphasise this! The best way to foster good wellbeing at home is by seeing employees from a human perspective. People do have lives outside of work: fears, worries and conditions that impact how they show up on a day to day basis.
  • You can do this through educating managers to embrace a variety of working styles amongst their teams – introvert, extrovert, etc.
  • Ensure you consider the challenges in people’s personal lives. This could be domestic violence, their wider family context, lingering concerns they may have after the COVID lockdowns. Those shielding or living with someone else extremely clinically vulnerable continue to be anxious. Consider the impact on physical and mental wellbeing, as well as on their performance at work.

Your organisation’s approach to considering the individual needs of employees can make a tangible difference!

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