In March, we all thought this would be over in a week or two. And it wasn’t so long ago that things seemed to be going back to normal: pubs and restaurants open, and office workers urged to take up the commute again. Usual service would resume “by Christmas”, we were told.
But, predictably, that’s not the case. And with the lockdown tightening back up, the office has been declared a no-go zone once again. So it’s time to make remote working work for you.
The remote-first revolution
Almost 50% of us worked from home in April and - although offices opened back up a while ago - it’s fair to say we were slow to return, with many of the world’s biggest tech firms going remote-first indefinitely. But why is that?
On one level, remote working seems to be good for business. Shorter, more efficient meetings, more communication, employees working longer hours, and 88% claiming they’re more productive. It’s hard to argue with that.
But though many state the benefit of remote working is a better work-life balance, some of us need a little help with getting it right - especially during these testing times.
The “infinite present”: we need to be better at working from home
Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve had six months of living day-to-day. Personally that’s meant not being able to plan holidays, or life events, or even take a punt on career changes - and on a business level, there’s been a similar tendency to just stay afloat.
It’s been called the “infinite present” in a tweet that clearly resonated with a lot of us - getting almost 80k likes. Like living the same day, over and over. What could help is enabling your employees to find better, healthier working habits while they’re stuck at home.
Giving your teams the right “tools and training”, and understanding their different needs, can help find a work-life balance that brings novelty to their day.
Remote working and the risk of burnout
Flexibility is a big bonus of remote working - but it’s that same flexibility that can blur the boundaries between work and life, with an always-on expectation for checking work emails and the pressure to work longer hours. Almost like penance for reaping the benefits.
And at the same time people are working harder, they’re also not taking proper breaks. Across the board, employees are letting their holiday days stack up - maybe because they can’t travel anyway, or because they feel pressured to prove their worth.
So it’s unsurprising there are estimates that 45-84% of home-workers are experiencing burnout, with another study showing less than 25% of people have high resilience right now. That means they’re less equipped to deal with difficult situations, and handle stress.
That’s not good for your people - which means it’s not good for business. But what can you do to tackle it?
What business leaders can do to encourage a work-life balance
Your people are your responsibility. No, really - it might be up to them to find better ways of working, but it’s your job to lead from the top. Here’s some ways to promote a better balance for your remote-working organisation:
- Provide the right tools: equip employees with everything they need to work from home: whether it’s laptops, desks and office chairs, or tech that facilitates better communication (from video software to chatting tools)
- Monitor their wellbeing: watch out for the tell-tale signs of stress, like frequent mistakes or negative language use. Our smarter surveys and language analysis tool could help with the latter.
- Understand different needs: we all have different circumstances and mental health considerations, so understand a one-size-fits-all approach to remote working just won’t work for everyone.
- Enforce best practices: implement company-wide practices, like scheduling in meeting breaks or discouraging out-of-hours work, that will trickle down to make your whole organisation healthier.
- Adjust manager mindsets: some managers struggle to trust their remote-working employees, leading to micromanagement, which causes stress and reduces performance, leading to justification of more micromanagement. Cut that out, by educating on the benefits of remote work and managing by results.
Helpful remote-working tips to share with your employees
A lot of your employees might be new to remote working - so it can’t hurt to offer advice and guidance on how to create the balance they need. That, combined with the steps you take, will make it easier to work remotely for as long as you need.
- Separate your workspace: not always easy in houseshares or inner-city micro-flats, but try to find a place to work that’s different from where you sleep, watch TV, or eat. Even if it’s moving a chair across the room, it could help reset your brain into work/play mode.
- Dress for the office(ish): the lure of pyjamas is very real, but it’s not going to make you feel your most sharp. No need to be ironing shirts every morning - just try and find an in-between between businesswear and sleepwear, business casual-casual.
- Take screen breaks: normally you’d have natural breaks in the meeting room, or by chatting by the kettle - so be sure to get aware from the screen regularly, and even make some video calls just old-fashioned phone calls instead.
- Make time for chatting: one perk of office life is the off-topic chats, and moments of novelty, that each day brings - like a pigeon flying through the window, or discussing last night’s GBBO. Use messaging tools to chit-chat about non-business matters.
- Stick to working hours: it’s great that remote-working means we can make the school pick-up, or go to the gym during quiet hours - but try not to shift your schedule so dramatically that you’re accidentally working longer, and later. You need a break too.
- Get out of the house: as horrifying as commuting can be, it makes coming home feel all that much better. Get out of the house in the morning, at lunch, or after work to separate ‘me time’ and ‘being at work time’ - it’ll really help.