Is working from home all it’s cracked up to be?

Is working from home all it’s cracked up to be?
September 2, 2020 Linda Murray

Working from home used to be the dream for many people but now they’ve tried it, I’m not at all sure they have enjoyed it.

You’ve heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.” Well, we did. Living the dream? No.

Last month I shared some scary data. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found 71% of employers are struggling to adjust to remote work, 65% say maintaining employee morale has been a challenge…”

These stats aren’t talking about people’s ability to get things done. They are talking about mindset and, ultimately, mental health.

The impact we expected.

Working from home (WFH) is not all it’s cracked up to be, particularly on a full-time basis. It has ups and downs you probably hadn’t considered. You probably expected interruptions from your kids or pets, and perhaps unexpected deliveries in the middle of online meetings. You probably expected the difficulty of finding a dedicated workspace in the middle of your family home. You might even have expected the fractured work schedule as you balance work and home.

The emotional impact.

The problem for many people is that they didn’t anticipate how they’d feel after working in those scenarios for a length of time. It’s worse for those whose companies have chosen to maintain the WFH arrangement for the foreseeable future. Where’s the escape? Where’s the release? There is none because it’s all tied together in a knot called ‘new normal’ life.

I’m worried that we’re going to see a high rate of burnout very soon if we, as leaders and HR specialists, don’t do something about it. We have people who are waking, eating, sleeping and dreaming of work because there’s no escape from it. A lot of people are eating or drinking much more, exercising less and they’re stuck in front of the laptop for hours at a time. In the workplace, there was a break for lunch or for a chat with a colleague. At home, the break is likely to mean feeding a child or putting on a load of laundry. I am hearing too many people who are doing at least an extra 2 to 3 hours work a day, and eating in front of their computer rather than grabbing these moments to renew/recharge.

Worse still? There’s no end in sight and none of us have a clear vision of what work will be like once the pandemic has passed …. Whenever that might be!

Ideas for helping your team.

What can we do about it? How can we help our people maintain their mental health and wellbeing?

What about setting a designated “social break”? Some people call this the water cooler chat. You have access to platforms like Zoom and they don’t always have to be used for ‘work’. 10 minutes each morning just to chat and socialise with your team mates not only keeps the team connected and engaged, it reduces the sense of isolation. More importantly, it takes our minds off work for a while, which can be a few minutes of relief.

What about ‘meeting’ to exercise together? Forget all that stuff about push-ups or sit-ups. Just stretch, wriggle, dance to some music. This is about fun as much as it is movement. Best of all, this is the kind of activity where it doesn’t matter if the kids or the dog join in, too. Be as free and silly as you like. It instantly changes your mood and lowers your stress level.

In the virtual programs we run, I have everyone, from Graduates to Senior Leaderships, literally doing a “60 second disco”. Nothing like a bit of “Disco Inferno” to spice up the learning experience. Although initially reluctant, everyone embraces the experience (and the giggle).

What about giving your team vouchers for home delivered meals once a fortnight? Who wants to cook a meal every night while they are surrounded by and living inside their work/workplace? Home delivered pizza for the family eases the pressure and encourages the family to spend time together.

What about making your in-house counsellors available or tapping into the resources of your local mental health services? It’s not enough just to point people in the direction of help. We need to provide it.Develop support groups or offer free and private sessions with those specialists.

These are small ideas, but they reflect the type of changes we need to start making at the company level. We need to start thinking ‘human’ and not purely of systems.

What ideas do you have for helping your people maintain their emotional and mental health?

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