With social distancing and other measures in place to protect employees and prevent the risks of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading at work and in the community, many employers in Australia and New Zealand are asking their workforce to Work from Home (WFH).
For some businesses and employees, working from home is something they are already familiar with (including existing policies), but for many others it will be a first – especially for such an extended period of time.
Whilst Working from Home has some clear benefits (eg. cutting down on commute time, increasing flexibility between work and home life, not having to dress up in business attire), it could also be daunting and add stress and anxiety to an already difficult situation.
Sending your employees home without proper preparation and guidelines could result in unsafe and unproductive workspaces.
So, here are some of our top tips to ensure that the transition between working from the office and working from home will be as smooth as possible and your employees will remain safe, healthy and productive.
1. Establish a specific area to work from
Creating and setting up a space to work from is the first critical step to take when working from home. It is important for your employees to try and work from a dedicated area so that they don’t have to pack up and pack down every single day.
We also recommend finding a space that will be quiet and private enough so that they don’t have constant interruptions if other people are in their household during their work time. Not everyone will have the luxury of having a home office, but spare bedrooms, sunrooms, living rooms, or even garages could prove to be very good “substitutes”.
Finally, ensure the space is comfortable, has access to phone/wifi, is well ventilated, and has plenty of natural light.
2. Setup an ergonomically safe and productive workspace
Once a room has been selected, it is time to setup the actual workspace. This is probably the most crucial step to avoid any pain, discomfort or potential injuries. From desks to chairs and monitors there are some clear guidelines that should be followed. To get you and your employees started, you can access our top 10 tips for a proper ergonomic workspace setup while working from home.
It is also important to be aware of any potential hazards while setting up a workspace at home (electrical, tripping, falling objects).
3. Don’t forget to take regular breaks and exercise
When working from home, it is easier to stay sitted for longer periods of time and forget about regular movements and breaks. Your employees will most likely spend a large portion of the day connected online, won’t have colleagues around to serve as a reminder and may not have the same amount of space to move around so it is important for them to stand, stretch and take a break every hour.
It is also important to keep a healthy exercise regimen with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a few times per week – it is great for the body and the mind.
4. Start and end your day with a routine
When you work from home the boundary between work and home life gets blurred even further. Imagine waking up every morning and going to bed every night in your office – this is how many employees feel when they are working from home.
It is best for your employees to have, and stick to, a similar routine and start and finish times as if they were in the office. It is also necessary to clearly align and communicate these times with managers and colleagues.
Another good habit is to have a “transition routine” between work time and home time. At the beginning and end of your work day go for a walk around the block, drop / pick-up the kids from school, change your clothes, or take a shower to let your brain (and other people in your household) know that you have now started or finished work. A morning call or planning session to map out your day can also be very effective way for your employees to start the day.
5. Make the most of the situation
While they are in this temporary situation it is important to encourage your employees to make the most of it. It will help them keep sane, connected and productive. With the time they are saving from not commuting or unproductive meetings, they could complete and unfinished home project, pick up a new book, get some additional sleep, or simply spend more time with their loved ones.
6. Dress like if you were going into the office
Wearing more comfortable clothes is certainly one of the perks of working from home. But it is still important to make an effort to prepare yourself every morning as if you were going into the office. Wearing professional clothes is a key psychological factor in maintaining confidence and good mental health and can lead to increased productivity.
7. Keep Teams connected, organised and on task
During time of isolation, it is easy to lose contact and become “invisible”, especially if you come from a busy workplace. Employees can feel lost without their normal rituals and triggers.
It is important for managers to be in frequent contact and check in with teammates and colleagues throughout the day. Technology nowadays makes staying connected a lot easier. There is a myriad of chat and instant messaging apps, file sharing applications, task managers and videoconference software. Make the most of them.
8. Don’t spend all day on video conference and calls
The use of technology is obviously paramount to staying connected to teams, managers and colleagues when working from home, but stepping away from the screen regularly will help avoid eye strains and headaches.
9. Information and Data Security should remain a priority
Similar rules around IT and data security should apply whether employees are working in the office or at home. Protecting business critical information as well as data privacy should remain a priority. Employees should lock their computers and prevent from using personal devices to access company data. Vigilance is also key. Moving from corporate networks that are secured and closely monitored to often unsecured Wi-Fi home networks could create opportunities for cybercriminals.
As we are going through unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to support our employees’ health and wellbeing. Here is another article you might find useful for you and your employees about looking after yourself in times of uncertainty.
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