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How to work from home and maintain wellbeing

Due to the recent unforeseen circumstances, we are seeing a shift from office-based working environments to home-based working across many sectors. One of the key areas of concern around this shift is the wellbeing of staff who now have to navigate the same workplace tasks within an arguably more challenging setting, namely the home.


Flexible Working Arrangements


This, however, is not something new as flexible working has become an important aspect of the modern UK economy, with over half of employees taking up a flexible working arrangement [1].

Part of flexible working is remote working (otherwise known as e-working or home-working) [2]. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that in November 2016 around 1.9 million employees predominantly worked from home, with a Trades Union Congress (TUC) report in 2019 indicating that between 2008-2018 there was increase in regular remote working by 28% [3]. Interestingly, men are more prevalent though with 62% of remote workers being male [3].


Working from home











Wellbeing Practices


From a wellbeing point of view for the employee (feeling good and functioning well), the concept of such smart technologies not only allows increased flexibility in working but could conceivably facilitate a greater uptake of physical activity in comparison with office-based settings. This is due to non-static workstations and less rigidity in daily workplace routines

[4-6]. Previous research has identified an increase in job satisfaction and productivity (although not conclusive), alongside reduced absenteeism in remote settings [7]. Specifically, studies have shown that remote working encourages an ease of transference between work and home-life activities, culminating in improved physical activity levels by removing traditional activity barriers such as time, travel and locations [5,6,8,9].

Having said that, it is not easy to transition into a remote environment and retain a high level of mental wellbeing [6,9]. Issues that often arise relate to time management within the working day [2]. Employees often refer to a ‘blurring’ of the work boundaries with home life chores or family interactions becoming a distraction and increasing stress when trying to juggle all elements [2,9]. Social isolation is also often cited by employees due to a lack of outside or management contact [10]. Therefore, it is important that you build into your day some good wellbeing practices such as the 5 ways to wellbeing as recognised by the New Economics Foundation [7]:

  • Be Active – maybe a walk or some form of home exercise routine, even increase your chores!
  • Connect – verbally speak to people at work using technology and increase breaks to allow interaction at home to break up the monotony of being alone
  • Take notice – be more aware of others around you in the same situations and reflect on these to increase your appreciation of what actually matters to you
  • Give – give more dedicated time to the family as barriers such as travel might now have been removed
  • Keep learning – invest some time into yourself, maybe look for new interests that you could study such as health and fitness - things that time generally makes hard for you to pursue


Running outside














As a remote worker myself, I know that having support is a key facilitator for mental wellbeing. Being allowed to manage oneself is great, but it also comes with internal pressures and the constant fear of a lack of acknowledgement.

If anyone in a management position reads this, I would recommend that you trust your employees, but still have frequent contact with them over this troubled time – encourage them to take breaks and invest in themselves when they need to, allow them to work outside of a rigid 0900-1700 day and acknowledge the difficulties they will need to overcome to complete what would normally be simple tasks.


References


1. Office for National Statistics (2016) Report on remote working. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/p... Accessed [18/3/20]

2. Nuffield Health (2019) The effects of remote working on stress, wellbeing and productivity: Advantages and challenges for employees and employers. Available at: https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/working-remotely-wh... Accessed [18/3/20].

3. Trades Union Congress (2019) Homeworking report. Available at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/publications?field_category... Accessed [1/12/19]

4. Bayrak, T. (2012). IT support services for telecommuting workforce. Telematics and informatics, 29(3), 286-293

5. Cole, R., Oliver, A. and Blaviesciunaite, A. (2014). The changing nature of workplace culture. Facilities, 32(13/14), 786-800

6. Grant, C.A., Wallace, L.M. and Spurgeon, P.C. (2013). An exploration of the psychological factors affecting remote e-worker's job effectiveness, well-being and work-life balance. Employee Relations, 35(5), 527-546

7. New Economics Foundation (2014) Well-being at work: A review of the literature. London: NEF

8. Madsen, S.R. (2011). “The benefits, challenges, and implications of teleworking: A literature review”, Journal of culture and religion, Vol. 1, (1), pp.148-158

9. Wheatley, D. (2012). Good to be home? Time‐use and satisfaction levels among home‐based teleworkers. New Technology, Work and Employment, 27(3), 224-241

10. Noonan, M.C. and Glass, J.L. (2012). Hard Truth about Telecommuting, The Monthly Labour. Review. Vol. 135, (6), pp. 38-45