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The Surprising Ways Work from Home is Impacting Wellbeing

< 05 June 2020 >

Remote working - well being

Extreme times sometimes call for inventive measures.

Today, the current global scenario has triggered a 360-degree overhaul of our work culture. Faced with the challenge of large-scale office closures, people must now turn to work-from-home or WFH, relying on telephonic and cloud-based communication to stay connected. WFH is central to social distancing, making sure that employees aren’t at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus as they commute to work, interact with colleagues, or travel for business purposes.

Initially, there were concerns around productivity – but interestingly, productivity hasn’t taken much of a hit, with tech advancements allowing companies to discover a new form of Business as Usual.

But what has happened is an unprecedented impact on employee wellbeing, both physical and emotional.

An office-lifer, who hasn’t worked from home beyond the occasional sick-day, could struggle to adapt to this new paradigm. And apart from WFH, there are domestic duties, financial considerations, and a constant flow of negative or ambiguous news flowing in. All of this adds to employee stress, taking a toll on their physical and mental well being at a time when they lack the usual support systems of colleagues/peers.

It’s no wonder that 64% of respondents in a recent UK survey said that they are literally losing sleep from worry. A lot of people (58% and 56% respectively) report aches in the neck and shoulders, as their home seating simply isn’t suited to long hours of work.

While companies could offer EAPs and online counselling to address WFH-triggered isolation, it is easy to overlook the more insidious impacts on our wellbeing. For instance, 60% respondents on the survey said that they aren’t active enough, probably with commute and office-campus walkabouts now gone. But surprisingly, less active doesn’t mean that employees are less tired – 60% felt a strong sense of fatigue, much more than they did in pre-COVID-19 times.

Diet is another key concern. Access to at-home snacking during work has shot up instances of indigestion (39%), and a third of respondents admit that they aren’t eating healthy enough.

So, what are companies to do? On the bright side, 83% are staying in regular contact with their boss/superiors to beat any sense of isolation. And this should be a starting point for resolution – some fallouts from WFH are inevitable. Employees with prior experience of WFH would find the transition easier, but the majority will struggle. Company leaders, managers, and team leads should forge deeper relationships with their colleagues. They can take simple steps to improve wellbeing – like hold a webinar on Chair Yoga or start a Slack stream where parents discuss their kids.

And, of course, we need long-term measures such as digital Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for timely intervention as well as financial support for vulnerable workers.

Ultimately, COVID-19 poses a truly unprecedented challenge for all of us. It is vital that we stay socially-connected while staying socially-distanced, and don’t lose our vital support systems. This, coupled with proactive steps from companies, can go a long way in ensuring wellbeing.

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