Smart devices making remote work more accessible, combined with a need for social distancing, have meant that more of us are working from home now and plan to do so for the considerable future. Remote working offers a lot of benefits for employees and employers alike, from increased productivity to greater staff retention rates. But employers still have a responsibility to keep their staff healthy when they’re working, even if they aren’t working at a central office location. These tips will ensure that workers maintain a healthy work environment during office hours.
When we work in an office, we’re moving around more often, whether it’s getting up to speak to colleagues, heading out to grab lunch or moving between meeting rooms throughout the day. But when you’re working remotely, you may find that you’re sitting down for longer which isn’t good for your posture or your health. The human body wasn’t designed to sit for long periods, and doing so can actually increase your risk of heart problems and diabetes.
Encourage staff to take breaks and get moving throughout the day, such as taking a walk on their lunch break or using time management techniques like the Pomodoro method which will remind them to move after each segment of work. Even if it’s just taking a walk around the block for 10 minutes each day, or doing some stretches in the living room, it’s good for the body to get moving.
Create an ergonomic work setup
Back pain is one of the biggest causes of workplace absences each year, costing the UK economy billions annually. Yet despite this, so many employees don’t assess their workstations properly, particularly when working from home. “During the first lockdown, when there was the sudden rush to work from home, we saw an increase in patients with neck and thoracic pain”, explain independent physiotherapy clinic, Physioteq.
Spending long periods sitting at a desk that’s not set at the right height, or working on a laptop that puts strain on the neck can be really harmful to an employee’s musculoskeletal health over time. Over half of all staff receive no guidance from their employers on how to properly set up their workstation to support their posture properly, so it’s unsurprising that so many remote employees find that they begin to experience back and neck pain when working from home. Make sure that employees know the correct height to set their desk and screens at, and that they have the necessary equipment to work safely.
Have a dedicated workspace
We aren’t all lucky enough to have a separate office at home, but it’s still important that wherever your employees work from, it’s a separate area from the rest of the home. Whether it’s setting up a desk in the spare room or creating a corner in the living room that’s just for work, it’s important to separate work life from home life, not just for productivity reasons but also for your employees’ mental health. We need to have that separation in order to switch off from work and have downtime, and having a separate area in the home in order to do that really helps break up the workday from leisure time.
Make sure communication remains a priority
It’s not just the physical health of staff that employers need to consider, but also the mental health. Working alone without the conversations and interactions that office life brings can leave many people feeling disconnected and lonely. Over time, this can have a big impact on our mental health and productivity.
Communication is really important to prevent staff from feeling isolated, so make sure that there are regular video calls so that everyone can interact ‘face-to-face’ and encourage staff to talk about topics other than just work. One of the biggest issues people face when working remotely is missing out on the water cooler chats and social aspect of working in a team, and this can be easily lost unless a concerted effort is made to talk to one another. It’s critical that businesses create a company culture that enables everyone to feel part of a team, even if they aren’t physically in the same location.
Working remotely has become the norm for many of us over the last year, and it’s unlikely that businesses will operate in the same way going forward as they did pre-pandemic. With this in mind, it’s vital that businesses and employers take care to ensure that their staff stay healthy when they are working from home. From fostering open communication so that staff feel comfortable raising issues and asking for support when they need it, to making sure that all employees know how to properly set up their work equipment, businesses have a responsibility to keep employees safe and healthy, both mentally and physically.