The past couple of years have seen a seismic shift in day-to-day working practices for a huge number of businesses.

What began as a homeworking necessity during the lockdown, is now a preferred option for millions of people, whilst companies can benefit from certain cost savings associated with downsizing their offices. Remote or hybrid working is fast becoming the norm and it’s certainly a factor when businesses are looking to recruit. Plus, the demand for flexibility increasingly appears on candidates’ wish lists.

While it undoubtedly has financial and practical benefits on both sides – the lower overheads and luxury of no commute – there can be a mental health price to pay for the convenience of remote working. Just because an employee is outside the regular workplace environment doesn’t mean they don’t need, or are legally entitled to, the same level of care.

One of the main issues is isolation – resulting rise in stress and anxiety levels, which can be felt when people no longer have regular social interaction with colleagues. Add the blurring of work/life boundaries which can lead to employees neglecting their own health, and it’s clear that the well-being of remote or hybrid workers really is something which can’t be ignored.

Providing effective support can help instill healthy work habits which increase positivity and motivation and boost overall company morale. So, what should businesses be doing?

Keep communicating
To reduce the risk of isolation, make sure that collaborative working platforms are allowing everyone to communicate effectively and support each other to maintain a strong sense of teamwork, even remotely. Check-in regularly on a one-to-one basis by scheduling individual as well as team chats, if not daily then at least weekly, via a platform that suits everyone, maybe Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype. It’s an opportunity to not only discuss any concerns but to show appreciation.

Encourage a work/life structure
It can be more difficult to draw clear boundaries between home and work if someone is in a spare room, maybe with the added distraction of family members coming in and out. It’s far healthier to have the continuity of structure of a regular workplace at home so employees should be actively encouraged to take lunch and screen breaks, finish on time and not allow work to seep into what should be after-hours life.

Set a good example
Businesses can set the tone for healthy working practices so lead by example – if employees see their line managers taking lunch breaks and not answering emails at midnight, it should give them the green light to be kinder to themselves too.

Be alert to the warning signs and offer support
There are certain telltale signs when someone is suffering from burnout or struggling to cope. Be on the lookout for an increase in days off sick, mistakes, lack of enthusiasm, a drop in productivity or missed deadlines. If you don’t already have one, think about introducing an ‘Employee Assistance Programme’ to support workers, or suggest they create a wellness action plan which could highlight early red flags.

Deliver strong onboarding for new staff
This can be successfully achieved by setting up the desired working relationship from day one through a strong, considered onboarding process. One important step to include are team introductions so that your new starter has the chance to meet their colleagues and build up relationships that might not be as natural to fall into place when working remote.

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