Managing home workers during COVID-19

This page includes research findings from the field of Occupational Psychology on the impact of COVID-19 and home/remote workers. I hope you find this helpful and if you need support, please contact the St Monica Trust People Directorate. Short video from HBR:

Are you looking after you?

Recent research conducted during COVID-19 is telling us that managers working from home tend to have worse work-life balance than their team and worse self-care.

We are social beings and positive social relationships are a strong predictors of reduced mortality – this is comparable to that of smoking and alcohol consumption. Initiate an online lunch hub or informal coffee mornings. 

When was the last time you shook someone’s hand? Social Identity Theory/Vitamin Model/Social Deprivation Model in Psychology tell us that social interaction is a fundamental human need. Your weekly goals must include connecting with others – and not just about work.

We’re more sedentary working from home than when working in a shared workplace. If you travelled ‘actively’ to work (bike/walk) pre-COVID, you may be missing out on some vital daily exercise. You must get some movement into your daily routine. Sitting down is the new smoking.

Be mindful that…

People working from home with children, and new joiners are experiencing more mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Try to check in with them at least weekly or as often as possible. Here’s some CIPD guidance on how to support working parents.

CIPD link on supporting working parents

We could be missing the signs of stress in our colleagues.

Remote workers are also missing incidental and spontaneous interactions. Note that a loss of routine for home-workers and furloughed staff can lead to low mood and mental health issues.

Some colleagues will be finding it particularly difficult to rest because things are always happening in our 24 hour workplace.

Online communication (zoom etc.) can lead to screen fatigue and cognitive load – for you and your colleagues.

Thinking ahead – organisations are likely to reduce their office/work space (McKinsey projects that orgs will lose 30% of face to face workspace but some orgs will eliminate altogether) – and there will be likely divides by gender, race, disability and socio-economics potentially further widening gaps in opportunity. Consider your succession planning, who is typically getting the opportunities to develop and take on more responsibility during these times?

And, in better news…

Managers are reported to have higher levels of ‘belonging to’ and ‘engagement with’ the organisation and generally less ‘neuroticism’ during the pandemic.

Some people’s mental health has improved during the pandemic, social anxiety sufferers for example.

There are environmental benefits in relation to commuting behaviour, however be mindful that household emissions during winter months are causing greater levels of emissions overall.

Working from home is popular – many people wish to continue and some are “dreading” a return to normality.

Organisations, including ours, (and the Government itself) have quickly adapted to enable changes in work procedures and communication throughout COVID.

People’s value of nature has been increased nationally during the pandemic. How are you promoting breaks outdoors and different ways of working to ensure people’s continued connection with nature during the working day? Connection to nature is good for us in so many ways.

Trauma related roles working from home:

Roles where employees may be exposed to trauma include (among others) Health and Social Care Workers, Safeguarding, Social Media Moderators, Social Workers… Please read this guidance:

BPS factsheet on trauma and working from home

If you need some help with working through some of these things while remote working remains a prominent factor of some of our lives, please do get in touch with your People Directorate.

The information above is taken from the Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Virtual Conference January 8 and 9 2021.