COVID-19 has accelerated workplace trends of working from home as well as a ‘hybrid-working’ – a combination of home and office working, which is set to continue in 2021. However Adrian Lewis from Activ Absence warns employers need robust policies and tools in place to ensure this is managed successfully.
This comes as a new survey from Resilience First[i] highlighted that more than half of remote workers are now suffering from ‘working from home fatigue’, a condition that includes reduced creativity, increased isolation from colleagues and, for some, mental health issues.
Adrian says, “Earlier this year when working from home was encouraged during the first lockdown many employees welcomed it. It enabled some to have a better work life without the commute and it was a novelty to begin with. However for many this is wearing off and the realities of working at home are starting to have a real impact.
“Whilst some employees will be thriving working at home, for others it’s taking a toll on their health and wellbeing, especially if their home environment isn’t geared up to working remotely long term or they are younger employees missing the buzz of office life. Employers need to recognise this and ensure they plan accordingly.”
Working from home is likely to become the norm for many. Indeed and Google have extended their work-from-home policies to summer 2021 and both plan to accommodate remote work indefinitely[ii]. Microsoft offered it indefinitely, too, and all of its employees can work from home less than 50% of the time without approval.
There is also the growing trend towards ‘hybrid-working’. A survey of US workers showed that 55% want a mixture of home and office working. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of regular home workers to double, from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic[iii].
Adrian adds, “Beyond the pandemic many firms will be adopting a hybrid way of working, so its important employers consider how to make this a success for everyone. This includes thinking about how to create the camaraderie of the office environment for remote workers and ensuring its business as usual so that productivity isn’t affected.
“Ensuring collaboration between employees working in different locations is key. This includes having regular virtual meetings, but also scheduling in some down time such as virtual coffee breaks or Friday drinks. Team meetings could also include a wellbeing session at the beginning where people are encouraged to say how they are feeling or the challenges they are facing that week.
“We also recommend employers use absence management technology to keep track of people who are off sick, as well as those on annual leave or who may be self-isolating at home. This is beneficial for keeping an eye on employees’ wellbeing as having a lot of time off sick could indicate a problem, as well as ensuring people are taking regular holidays.
“Having both remote and office workers can make it more challenging for employers to manage staff and to check on their health and wellbeing, but making use of technology can make this easier and ensure that there is no loss of productivity as new ways of working become the norm.”
For more information on absence management software visit www.activabsence.co.uk