By March, most of the UK will have worked from home for a full year. For many this will have been completely out of the ordinary and a real shock to the system. Even after a year, for those without the setup or intention of working remotely, this will be having a real impact.
The working from home guidance has been reinforced with the introduction of a new lockdown. Some may have just been used to going back to the office and this news will come as a blow. For many, a clear boundary between work and home life will be increasingly difficult to maintain.
With ‘work from home fatigue’ now becoming a very real concept, Sam Hill, Head of People and Culture at BizSpace shares tips on how business leaders can help to combat this unique form of burnout in a very different type of workplace.
Without any physical interaction and the reward from actually being in an office, it can be difficult to really nail down the reason for getting up and working from the next room – aside from the money. It is vital that every member of the team is aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, aside from simply logging the hours and getting through the day. Senior management, team leaders and line managers must be communicating this from the top down through the likes company-wide communication, keeping teams updated on business progress, any wins, challenges and opportunities.
This communication then needs to filter down through the hierarchy with each level of the team being aware of how their work contributes to the overall goal of the company. No role in a team is obsolete and everyone contributes to the success of the overall goal and defining this purpose, more now than ever before, is vital to give your team a sense of purpose and being.
Maintaining good and open communication is a vital part of this strategy to managing the fatigue of working from home. The success of most businesses is rooted in the comms approach throughout. Many office workers across the country may be living alone, in shared accommodation or having to juggle the added pressures of being at home more often, like childcare for example.
All of this can lead to feeling a sense of isolation from the team and the company, something that can come as a real shock to the system. While many won’t have a choice but to be working from home, team leaders could encourage the use of instant messaging like Slack and Google Chat. While daily huddles and weekly catch-ups with a line manager/mentor using a mixture of video and voice calls help to keep updated and on top of targets, with managers offering a steer and guidance. Keeping this constant open door to communication can replicate that feeling of being in the office where teams can so easily communicate and celebrate wins with each other. Offering that sense of gratification can go a long way to ensuring that the team feels valued while segregated.
The traditional working hours are now no longer ‘normal’, with many of us now juggling responsibilities from home that we didn’t have to during the working day, like childcare etc. This can lead to a feeling of needing to prove that all work is being done, leading to overworking and in turn, burnout. Thousands of us are defined by the 9-5, taking lunch at the same time each day and having a physical presence in front of colleagues to prove we are actually working. At home, we don’t have this way of ‘proving’ ourselves externally.
To combat this and prevent a team that is working over capacity, team leads must show that they trust their team, they can do this by being flexible and less formal, where meetings are required, keeping these streamlined and avoiding typical lunch hours or times early in the morning where some may be taking advantage of the new hours. Setting attainable and broad deadlines with a lot of notice will allow flexibility and give enough time to be met.
When delegating work, be absolutely clear of the deadlines and what the top priorities are. For the more inexperienced members of the team, being in the office has a monumental impact on their progression and will allow them to pick up skills and lean on peers for guidance. As a team leader or manager, making workload priorities explicit from the offset and checking in once a week on progress can help to guide the workload without micromanaging and guide those that may need more of a steer.
Taking a break from the dining room table or home office is key to keeping a clear and focussed mind throughout the day. Workers are likely to be spending more time at their screens with no need to leave the house, whereas heading out to get lunch is the norm when in an office setting. WIth longer nights, we must get the most out of the short amount of daylight we have. But how do you ensure your team is not neglecting their own need for fresh air and daylight?
Using instant messaging, a social chat can be an escape for many employees to talk about everything that isn’t work. Encouraging a weekly thread where the team can share photos of their week and something they have done might be a nice way to encourage people to do more other than stay in the house. Apps like Strava that track exercise can also be a great team building activity that encourages movement. Creating a leaderboard for the amount of miles each person logs in exercise outside should encourage competition amongst the team. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise either, so whether they’re walking or in a wheelchair, riding or running, it encourages the team to get outside and spend time away from the screen.