When the lockdown was announced in Mid March, many businesses managed the impossible; they got a large percentage of there workforce working from home successfully in a matter of weeks.

We ran a WhatsApp group for all our remote workers, in the early days there was a constant beep of a new message coming through that IT support was needed or how could they access a piece of information, but as time went on we all did what humans do best – we adapted. It wasn’t long before the Whatsapp group turned to a steady stream of more relaxed banter, much more akin to what you would expect in our office.

As lockdown eased, we ask our team about how they felt about returning to the office; many were desperate to return as they had found working from home isolating and technologically tricky. It seems working from home is an introvert’s dream, but for those extroverts out there it is somewhat more tricky.

Some of the challenges our staff relayed to us were around struggling to switch off at the end of the day, or not having a proper desk, or the office laptop being less user friendly than the large screen on their desk PC. Most people are not fortunate enough to have home offices so working at the kitchen table has become the norm; this can blur the lines between work life and home life and leave many people struggling to cope.

A recent survey stated that 83.5% enjoy working from home, 60% of people would work from home given the option, and 52.6% do not want to return to the office after Covid-19 so how do we engage our staff and make sure that we are looking after their wellbeing? The key has to be communication.

The physical distance from the office must be compensated for by increased engagement through interaction. Communication should be more frequent and faster than ever before. To look after the wellbeing of staff, we need to be listening and support our team through this transition. We need to work hard to maintain our cultures, we must have a group downtime and schedule catch up calls and things such as virtual meet-ups, or online coffee time can help to improve connectedness and wellbeing.

Homeworkers are lone workers and therefore should be treated that way when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. Employers have a duty of care to make the workplace safe and to manage risk. HR and managers must therefore be aware of stress levels and signs of mental health issues amongst their remote workers. It is thought that homeworking will reduce the number of short absences which is a benefit to all but long term sickness may increase due to musculoskeletal or mental health issues which are on the rise due to homeworking.

It is a good idea to implement a Permanent Health Insurance (PHI) scheme which can protect the company from the cost of long term sickness whilst allowing the employee to continue to receive at least part of their salary until they are well enough to return to work. Many PHI schemes also include an employee assistance programme, this can help to deal with wellness and mental health issue by providing a confidential 24hr helpline for all staff – and their family members too, as we must remember this is a change for the family and not just the employee.

For many people home working has positively changed lives but we must be listening and engaged with all of our workforce, remote or otherwise to help them to be productive, well, healthy and connected.

For information and advice on PHI, Employee Assistance Programmes and Flexible Benefit Schemes, contact your usual Wilsons Financial Adviser or contact the office on 0115 942 0111.

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