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Homework , but not the school type

As businesses settle into the norm of home working, and with the likelihood of this continuing for several weeks if not months to come, David shares his thoughts on the impact of the new working world on the general health and well being of employees.

Those that are in the fortunate position to be able to work from home in these times of Coronavirus will undoubtedly agree that it has its charms, it has its benefits as well, and yet it  has an amount of issues connected to it that can potentially have a negative effect on ones health.

Cramped working conditions, particularly for those that live in small flats can pose  problems around how the work station can be set up. It can cause back and neck issues through poor working posture and despite good DSE Assessments it is not always possible to put into place the proper corrective measures that would normally be implemented.

But there is more. For those with only small areas in which to live, their house almost becomes their prison. The area they have as their sanctuary, normally the living room or in some cases a bedroom, now has to double up as the office.  The impact of living and working in the same area can make people feel that they cannot escape from the pressure of work, meaning that in many cases people are working significantly longer periods of time at the desk or in front of the screen than they would normally do.  The draw of the laptop sitting in the corner can result in ‘just checking the emails’ well outside of normal working hours.

Being forced to live and work in limited space whilst trying to maintain motivation is difficult. With current control measures in place restricting movement outside to an hour a day, it is not difficult to see that the mental health of those isolated from physically meeting friends and family can easily be affected.

So what can we as coworkers and employers do about this. There are various guidelines available from the HSE for employers on ways to help those who may be struggling with their everyday lives working from home and whilst the nature of the current situation means that some of the normal practices are not fully possible, there are some practical steps that everyone can take to make things easier.

1. Where possible create a separate area for work and relaxation – whilst this will depend on living arrangements, turning a spare room or bedroom into a temporary working space as I have done can make a big difference. Take a look at the before and after images of what I have done – whilst the new arrangement isn’t perfect it is considerably better to have a separate workspace.

If that isn’t possible then at least try to put away laptops and other equipment once you’ve finished working so that the space can go back to being one for relaxation.

2. As much as possible ensure your laptop or computer is on a desk (or kitchen / dining table) and sit in a chair that supports your back.  Working with a laptop balanced on your knee or a lower coffee table will lead to back and neck problems.

3. Take regular breaks from the computer and screen, whether to put the kettle on, do some washing or just chat to family members sitting at a desk for long periods of time isn’t healthy or productive.

4. If possible, work to some kind of routine each day but be realistic about what is possible and what works for your circumstances. If it helps to be dressed and at your desk for 9am each day then do it, but if that’s not practical don’t beat yourself up.  I find it helps to simply set myself a couple of key things to achieve each day.

5. Get out for your exercise and/or shop etc every day. It is important for us all to ensure we get away from home every day to give us that mental as well as physical break.

6. Speak to colleagues, family or friends regularly and especially keep an eye out for those that might be struggling particularly if they live alone – make the time to give them a call – doesn’t have to be about work. In normal working practices we will stop and chat with colleagues over a coffee or lunch – it is important that this continues even if they are not physically with you.

Hopefully these few practical tips will prove helpful, I know they have helped me to transition to this new way of working.

Help & Advice from Sureteam

The team at Sureteam are on hand to provide any assistance we can to employers and employees during these difficult times.  Check out our social media channels and blog for updates, useful tips and free advice.