With Coronavirus being a global pandemic, more businesses are looking towards remote working as a solution to either stem the spread of the virus or enable teams to continue working if in self-quarantine.
Government reports suggest that up to 1 out of 5 could be off work due to COVID-19 in the UK, so preparations are being rapidly put in place by organisations which have perhaps never considered enabling their staff to work from home before, and large businesses like Google and Twitter are telling their staff to work from home to prevent the spread of the rapidly escalating disease.
As a result, many businesses are rushing into or being forced to get remote working set up adequately, and many technology platforms are jumping to attention around the media coverage, creating guides and recommendations on how to set up your work force to adequately work from home.
Little coverage, however, is being given to the emotional impact it could have on those who are suddenly having to work in this way, stuck at home whilst the quarantine period passes or until offices are reopened. Employees are developing guidelines and ensuring that sick pay will be paid – but for working parents, there seems to be little relief for those planning for school closures, and for the self-employed there is no sick pay – many won't be able to work or maintain their livelihood – a concern to many of the UK's 5m who work for themselves.
Therefore, some groups are looking to tackle these more emotional aspects of the pandemic.
Community project Leapers (www.leapers.co) has developed a guide for teams who might forced to work from home, tips and ideas of how to “work well” with a focus on maintaining positive mental health under challenging circumstances.
Matthew Knight, founder of the project supporting the mental health of the self-employed, explains
“Many freelancers deal with isolation and working from home every day, so we have plenty of experience of what is needed to work well when working remotely. Fortunately, for many who might be under quarantine, 14 days is not forever – but isolation can very quickly set in, so we're encouraging everyone to prepare for working remotely, not wait until it happens”.
Other groups who focus on remote working are joining together behind the hashtag #remoteagainstcoronavirus – encouraging everyone to share their tools, tips, techniques and support businesses to take steps towards remote working sooner rather than later, such as remote agency Hoxby Collective, and Mind have published guidance on maintaining good mental health under stress during infectious outbreaks such as COVID-19.
- Knight suggests a handful of suggestions to ease into working remotely, which is available online for free or as a downloadable PDF to share within teams at https://leapers.co/go/coronavirus
- Get Ready: don't wait for it to be necessary, prepare your technology and teams for remote working now, give it a trial run and make sure you've discussed how your teams will communicate
- Eat, exercise, sleep: physical health is intertwined with mental health, make sure you're getting good rest, eating well, and find exercises you can do from home.
- Structure your day: put a routine in place, so you're endlessly working, and don't forget lunch breaks
- Schedule in socials: put some time in the day where you're catching up with others about non-work topics, just as you would as work. Share a cup of tea with someone via a video call, or just pick up the phone, don't rely upon only typing and texting.
- Ask “how are you?”: companies need to check in on their teams at home, and individuals need to check in with their colleagues, and for those who are struggling, share how you're feeling, talking about the stresses really helps.
Leapers is a community project supporting the mental health of the self-employed. Founded in 2017, it supports over 2000 registered members to work well.