Well-being: a remote concern?

Bosses should implement simple measures to protect and support remote workers, says Linda Levesque, HR Director for employee benefits specialist Unum

3117187373_ed98fdeef1_oLast week’s National Work Life Week was a timely reminder to reflect on your organisation’s flexible working policies. Flexible working is a great employee benefit and heralds the start of smart businesses adapting to the future of work.

Despite this, our research has shown that only half of employers (53%) have put methods in place to ensure the health of employees working remotely. This shows many employers perhaps aren’t embracing flexible working policies or thinking about how best to protect the well-being of those working from home.

Arguments often cited by employers against flexible working include concerns around availability, as staff may need advance notice to attend meetings or calls. Burnout is also considered to be a risk, as the boundaries between work and leisure are blurred when employees work from home or work flexibly. However, research overwhelmingly shows that giving staff the option to work in a way that suits them is beneficial to the business, improving levels of productivity and creativity.

Concerns around embracing flexible working policies within your own business can be mitigated by implementing the right well-being plans. This will equip workers with all the right tools to work both flexibly and productively. Small steps such as ensuring workstations at home are set up safely, or putting measures in place to encourage staff to switch off and make a clear distinction between work and home can make a significant difference.

Whether working at home or in the office, the responsibility for a staff member’s well-being still lies with the company. Some measures that all employers should consider taking when implementing a healthy working plan for flexible and remote workers include:

  1. Distribute posture guides – many companies already distribute guides for employees working in an office, showing them how to set up their office workstation to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury, back pain and neck problems. Adapt these for those who work remotely to remind staff of the importance of working safely from a suitable desk set-up, even if they’re not in the office. It may be tempting to work from the comfort of your sofa, but this could seriously affect joints and muscles, leading to longer term damage.
  1. Introduce time limits – one risk of remote working is that the lines can blur between work and home, meaning that switching off becomes harder and more employees feel under pressure to be available 24/7. One way of counteracting this is to introduce time limits on remote working systems (and ensuring employees know these well in advance), meaning staff will be forced to exit the system.
  1. Encourage contact ensure that employees who work remotely maintain contact with the rest of the team, to avoid them feeling isolated. If staff are unable to make it into the office for logistical reasons, set up regular video calls to ensure that all team members catch-up at least once a week. It is just as important for managers to touch base with team members on a regular basis to ensure they’re getting the right support.

Working at home is such a valuable benefit for many workers, it’s vital that employers promote it within the culture of their organisations and implement the proper practices to support those working flexibly. Understanding employees’ wants and concerns and taking action to address them is a key component of an effective well-being strategy, which should sit alongside other benefits and initiatives. A holistic approach to well-being is vital for businesses in becoming an employer of choice and evolving for the future.

Linda Levesque 1

Main image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aidan_jones/

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