The coronavirus pandemic has caused numerous national lockdowns and seen many businesses take on remote working for the very first time. This, in turn, has raised a number of challenges for many businesses, such as how to manage effective workflows, how to maintain consistent communication, and how to successfully manage the health and safety of workers.
In this article, we will be highlighting the most important aspects of health and safety for remote workers, highlighting exactly how you can ensure your business stays in line with the regulations.
Your Health and Safety Responsibilities
Remote working is likely here to stay, with 90% of people keen to continue working remotely in some capacity after lockdown restrictions are eased. Therefore, as the employer, you must ensure the health and safety of your employees is maintained, even when they aren’t in the office.
According to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, your duty as the employer is to protect the following:
Put simply, it is your responsibility to monitor and ensure the protection of an employee’s health and safety, in as far as it is possible to do so.
Remote workers can be exposed to numerous health and safety risks, after all, such as stress, work equipment struggles, and mental health problems. Therefore, it is vital to talk to your employees individually to understand their situation and identify where there may require support.
How To Support Employees’ Mental Wellbeing
Shifting work patterns and significant disruption to childcare arrangements due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have caused upheaval to people’s lives. For many, this has caused an increase in stress levels and struggles with mental health; but, as an employer, you can help.
Below are a few ways you can support your employees’ mental wellbeing during this remote working period:
- Ensure line managers provide regular contact and communication through phone calls and virtual meetings.
- Provide home workers with regular updates.
- Adapt employees’ duties or working hours to suit them better.
- Provide information about the support available if they want to seek professional help.
How To Recognise Burnout
Remote employee burnout due to lockdown has become a very real risk for companies around the UK, as a growing number of people struggle with the ongoing restrictions and isolation.
As a manager of remote workers, it can be hard to know whether your employees are struggling with burnout. So, listed below are some tell-tale signs:
- Constant state of exhaustion
- Inability to concentrate
- Making a lot of mistakes
- An increased number of sick days
- Depression (signs of fatigue can often point to this)
If you notice any of the above signs in your employees, it is likely your team are struggling with burnout, so you’ll likely need to do something about it.
How To Reduce Workplace Burnout
If your team are struggling with burnout, there are steps you can take to manage it before it becomes problematic.
A few good ways to reduce and manage workplace burnout are:
- Understanding the root cause: it may be that there is a root cause that has set this period of burnout in motion. Perhaps it involves heavier workloads, too many meetings, or no clarity around work roles since going remote. Whatever the root cause, once you have discovered what it is, you will find it easier to make positive changes.
- Be an employee advocate: as a business manager, it is your job to champion your team. Whether through incentives, regular appraisals, more training, or practical support, you should be regularly encouraging your team.
- Flexible work schedules: lockdown restrictions have caused huge disruptions to normal life. As a manager, it is important to be sympathetic to this. Many of your employees are working from home while juggling childcare or home-schooling responsibilities. So, it’s important to be flexible, altering work hours when necessary so that employees can balance the many demands on their time, without this impacting their mental health.
Dealing with team burnout as a manager is always challenging and it can be tempting to feel you have failed your employees. However, it’s important to remember that employees can lose motivation and struggle at work for a whole host of non-work-related reasons.
If, for instance, they are currently undergoing some form of other stress in their life – a house move, a divorce, a legal medical negligence claim, or a custody settlement – they could simply not have as much time or energy to give to their work as they used to.
The most important thing is that you are aware of the signs of burnout and can quickly address any problems, should they arise. By acting quickly, you will have a happier, healthier, team – and that can only be good for business!
Revisit Your Expectations
If your remote employees are struggling, it is important to revisit your expectations.
Start by reviewing the obvious changes your team have gone through since adjusting remote working and then evaluate whether your communication has been consistent, helpful, and clear throughout this period. When you aren’t seeing employees in person, effective communication is more important than ever.
Sometimes, underperforming employees are doing so because they aren’t enjoying their role anymore. However, during the lockdown, the cause is often something else – insufficient experience in a particular area, lack of training, or specific skill deficits.
Address the areas where you may be lacking and monitor your employees’ performances moving forwards.
The best way to engage your team during lockdown is to involve them in as much as you can. If you are taking on the challenges of the job together, your team is more likely to take shared responsibility, increase communication, and work harder.
Whether your team are struggling from burnout, mental health issues, or are just generally fed-up of being in lockdown, you can help. Work with your team to create a path forward.
If 2020 taught us anything, after all, it’s that by working together, we can support, encourage and inspire each other to achieve greater things.