Helping your employees stay healthy whilst working from home
6 tips to create a healthy remote working environment.
In recent years, more emphasis has been placed on employee wellbeing, and health is a big part of that. There are multiple benefits to having a healthy workforce, from decreased absenteeism to increased productivity, and now more than ever we are seeing the importance of maintaining good health as we face the coronavirus pandemic.
However, having some if not all your staff working remotely from home, it can be a challenge to nurture a healthy work environment. Here are some tips to support your employees to maintain good health while working remotely.
Make sure your team has the correct equipment
If your employees are expected to work at home for 7 hours a day, it is important that they are set up to do so comfortably. Inappropriate work equipment can lead to a host of problems including repetitive strain injuries, neck and back problems, eye strain and migraines. And these problems will not be helped by working at home. When working in our home environment it can be tempting to sit at the dining room table or living room sofa, however, this likely means sitting in a chair that doesn’t give the correct amount of support. As well as this, it could also cause us to be looking downwards at the monitor whilst working, when in fact it the top of the monitor should be at eye level to avoid neck pain.
Making sure your team has the appropriate chair, desk, monitor, and lighting is a good first step. Items such as a desk riser, ergonomic mouse and footrest can also be helpful to those who suffer from pain caused by sitting at a desk.
Encourage a healthy work-life balance
You might think that working from home would give people more time for themselves and their families, but this isn’t necessarily the case. One survey by Liberty Games suggests that home working actually leads to people working longer hours, with 38% of British people surveyed saying they are working more (1). This could be because working from home blurs the lines between work and home life and we have lost the physical and mental separation a daily commute provides.
We have all been guilty of checking emails in the evening but working overly long hours can lead to decreased productivity, burnout, increased anxiety and depression (2,3,4). Not only that, but those who work longer hours don’t necessarily get more work done. A research paper found that people who worked 70 hours per week didn’t get any more work done than their colleagues who worked 56 hours (5).
Having a work environment where you encourage staff to switch off will help them to feel their personal lives are valued, and in the long run will lead to a happier, more productive workforce.
Make lunch breaks the norm
Taking some time out in the middle of the day has a number of benefits. Not only can it provide a mental break, but it can also help us to fit in some exercise or much needed daylight; particularly important in the winter months. However, the same survey by Liberty Games also found 41% of us are more likely to work through lunch since working from home.
Studies have found that breaks during the work day can help reduce stress, maintain performance and increase energy levels at work (6,7,8).
As well as the mental benefits, taking time out in the middle of the day to get some daylight will help boost vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK and can cause low mood, fatigue and aches and pains. It is important to note that the Public Health England recommends a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (mcg) throughout the year to maintain good levels.
Put in place a 1-2 hour ‘block out’ window in the middle of the day where you try not to schedule any meetings or calls, and suggest other managers do the same. This will help encourage staff to take a lunch break where they can get outside for a walk, do a quick home workout or make a healthy lunch, as well as giving their brain some necessary down time.
Create groups and challenges
A great way to promote healthy habits is with a bit of light-hearted competition. Applications such as Yammer and Teams are useful tools to create communities as members can post updates, polls and photos to keep the conversation going and motivation high. Couch to 5k and Race at Your Pace are great challenges suitable for all levels of fitness. You can also create groups based on people’s interests such as walking club, running club and lunch club.
Not only will these groups encourage healthy behaviours, they will also help create a community feeling and encourage engagement between staff who may not communicate on a day-to-day basis; something which is important when people are working remotely.
Offer mental health support
Recent months have no-doubt caused a massive strain on people’s mental health, and for many working from home can be a contributing factor. One study conducted in May showed that 66% of employees aged 25 or under were suffering one or more signs of mental ill-health (9). It is likely this is partly due to increased loneliness and isolation.
What is important in your workplace is that your employees feel they will not be at any disadvantage for opening up and talking to their employers about what they are struggling with. Have a process in place to support those struggling with mental health, and make sure employees are aware of what support is available to them. The Mental Health Foundation has a guide on mental health in the workplace including line manager responsibilities. Some of their guidance includes:
- Developing an approach to mental health at work that protects and improves mental health for everyone.
- Regularly review the way you do business to ensure your everyday working culture is as mentally healthy as possible and incorporate mental health promotion tools like mindfulness and exercise.
- Get regular feedback from staff through surveys and use the findings to inform workplace policies.
- Provide relevant training to managers to support staff with mental health problems.
Provide health testing
One of the best ways to support your workforce to be healthier is with a blood test. Medichecks has a range of tests designed to look at important markers for mood, energy and overall health including vitamins, hormones, cholesterol and diabetes.
These tests are completed by your team safely at home with a finger-prick kit sent in the post. Samples are analysed at an accredited laboratory and results delivered securely in a personal health portal. A Medichecks doctor will review the results and offer actionable advice so your team can take steps to improve their health through lifestyle changes.
With Medichecks home health tests you can deliver a company-wide wellbeing programme, even when everyone is working from home.
Learn more about corporate health checks or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org