As the Coronavirus state of emergency continues to interfere with our daily schedules, working from home has become a necessity for many Americans. Flexible work arrangements are nothing new, but for millions of people, the choice to work from home is moot and home offices are the new norm.
Working from home has many benefits, but it also comes with unique challenges. The 2017 US Census reported that 8 million Americans work from home at least once a week. Many employees work from home because they are more serious about their careers and are seeking advancement. Studies have shown that productivity is often much higher at home than in a typical office setting.
There are financial incentives for both employers and employees when it comes to flexible work options.
As an employer:
- You can reduce your overhead costs with remote work options through savings on real estate, office overhead and supply costs. You can use short-term lease agreements over longer terms.
- You gain more productive employees. Research suggests those who work at home have much stronger focus and are more motivated to work.
- You will keep your employees, as flexible work options increase employee retention. Flexibility is also a strong incentive for those looking for work.
- You can source expertise from anywhere. Geography is no longer a barrier to working for a company when your office is where you live. No more relocation costs.
As an employee:
- You can reduce your costs associated with commuting to work, saving on gas, car insurance, vehicle wear and tear, parking permits and public transit costs.
- You are more likely to remain loyal to an employer who trusts you with a flexible work arrangement. No more job searching and losing seniority.
- You are more likely to make your own lunch and brew your own coffee, saving yourself the expense of restaurant or take-out convenience.
Like anything, there are pros and cons to working from home. If you have children or animals at home, interruptions can be rampant unless you set yourself up for success early on. But without fellow employees nearby, you are no longer sidelined by conversations at the water cooler, nor are you kept in the hallway off the elevator by a chatty coworker. At home, you have the opportunity to set yourself up for maximum focus on the task at hand.
Challenges and Solutions
Employees working from home sometimes struggle to find balance between demands of the job and their family. It is important that employers engage in dialogue with employees, respecting all priorities and capabilities. This is where your employee Wellness Program can assist you in ensuring strong mental well-being for all employees. Make sure resources are available and that your employees know where to find this support.
Employers must ensure employees have the tools they need to get their job done. If employees don’t have Internet at home, offer them assistance with this. Ensure they have the hardware they need also, such as laptops, headsets and printing capabilities. Assess employee needs and provide accordingly. This is in the best interest of productivity for the company.
Employers should be flexible. Give employees ample time to complete tasks, loosen up deadlines when possible and provide positive feedback. Employees are under the same personal stress as employers right now. The well-being of the workforce is more important than ever to ensure the company continues to run.
Tips for a Productive Workspace
- Ensure you have a comfortable workspace in which you are away from household noise and interruptions. Be sure to use a comfortable chair and that the tools you need to complete your daily tasks are within reach.
- Declutter your workspace, including the surrounding area. Clutter can cause subconscious stress. Keep your work area clean and organized.
- Limit distractions. Keep your television off during your work day, play soft music if it helps you concentrate, keep your phone at a distance and silence your doorbell. Walk your dog early so they don’t bother you to let them out. Keep your children occupied with a movie while you’re on a call. Set yourself up for success before you get started each day.
- Make sure you work in a well-lit space. Natural lighting is always best but if that is not possible, invest in good lighting for your home office.
- Understand the technology you now need to communicate with coworkers. Many offices are using new methods for on-line meetings or conference calls, document sharing and team messaging applications. Familiarize yourself with these tools before you need to use them.
Tips for a Productive Headspace
- Stick to a daily routine as much as possible. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and to get up at the same time each morning. Eat breakfast before you begin working. Take regular breaks to stretch or get a glass of water. Remain hydrated and take a lunch break. Go for a walk if you can or make a short phone call to a friend. The point is to remove yourself mentally from your workspace for that hour, mid-day, to return re-charged.
- Mental health experts suggest sticking to your self-care routine while working from home. Take a shower in the morning, get dressed as if you were going to work (even if it’s only from the waist up), brush your teeth and hair, etc. Maintain your rituals of productivity.
- Create a schedule that works for you. If you have children at home now, you may need to set them up with their school work before you can start your own work. Or you may need to walk your dog first thing in the morning. Set your work schedule around your personal priorities, that way everyone wins. You accomplish what you need to, have a clear head for work and are more likely to be productive throughout the day with less distraction.
- Keep personal items close. Even at home, you are still likely working from a desk. Having a personal focal point, such as a family photo or a memento from a favorite vacation, will help to keep you focused.
- Set boundaries. If you and your spouse are both working from home, and if you have young children at home, you may need to time shift so that you are not both working at the same time all day. If only one of you is working from home, ensure you both communicate about what you need to have your needs met each day.
- Get enough sleep. It is so easy to let healthy habits fall to the wayside right now. Sleep is key to remaining focused and productive during the day.
- Communicate with your coworkers. If you lead a team, offer some words of inspiration each morning and keep employees connected. If you lead an organization, provide your employees with updates about the company and remember to celebrate your workforce.
- Clock-out at the end of the day. Technology can make it hard to be unreachable. Set boundaries for your employees and employer. Start your workday as you would in an office setting, at a specified time, and end it in the same way.
Remember that your well-being is a priority and that if you are not well-rested and balanced now, you cannot be productive at work or at home.
Midland Health recognizes all approaches to positive employee health. Request a free quote and learn how you can create a successful wellness program for your company today!