It’s Lockdown 2. The sequel. How can we make it better for the people living through it?
The second wave of Covid-19 and lockdown number two is here. For many, the initial technical problems experienced while working from home between March and June have been fixed. Our broadband is better, our access to tech is sorted and we may even have a relatively decent chair, desk and screen set up. But are there any other lessons to be learnt from our first round of enforced lock-down?
1.Mental health should be a focus
The latest research has shown 30% of people working from home report ‘extreme loneliness’ as a real issue, with 5% describing it as a ‘chronic problem’ during lockdown.
Separated from the live communication channels and support mechanisms of the real world, mental health for many definitely suffered, particularly for those living alone.
Research by the BCFA also concluded that feelings of being overwhelmed were common, as work and deadlines mounted up. Some workers felt that they had to work longer hours because they were at home and needed to prove they were still performing at their best.
Businesses should carefully consider how they can mitigate these stresses for their workers as this month of winter isolation kicks in. But, the answer isn’t necessarily setting up more video calls with more people to keep us connected.
Instead, the companies who had the most successful and productive lockdown in the summer, were those that made room for shorter and more regular ‘one to one’ updates between workers and their line-managers.
2.Too much too Zoom
For many people, the endless round of Zoom calls became a real source of burn out and anxiety in our earlier lockdown. At one point many of us were enjoying more screen time than Philip Schofield - for a fraction of the pay. This great article from National Geographic points out the psychological toll and mental exhaustion that constant video calling can have on individuals, including:
- Visual migraines
- Over compensation around lack of body language cues
- Dealing with technical disruptions on calls
But, experts have made lots of suggestions for workers to improve their experience of video calling, and it’s worth reminding all of us that we can and should exercise more control if we need to:
Turn off your camera for at least some calls you're making
Turn off your self-view if you find it distracting
If your 5G’s good enough - try taking some calls outside or even while walking
Make sure routine calls have repeatable and understood agendas - so we don’t get side-tracked.
3. Are you still sitting comfortably?
This was a problem that many people experienced in the last lock down. To begin with, businesses met a flurry of reports of back, neck and joint pain as workers set up camp on the edge of kitchen counters.
Unsurprisingly, though, workers who had enough room in their houses, were able to adapt more easily than those in smaller or shared accommodation without the ability to ‘spread out’. And for those with limited resources and space the challenge of creating a workable home office solution continues.
Luckily, there’s lots of relevant advice on line for those still struggling to get remain productive without access to the most ergonomic furniture. The Steelcase expert advice can be found here - with a guide to some of the most successful techniques for keeping pain free as we work.
That said, it’s still up to responsible employers to look at how they’re helping their people to work safely from home. As the HSE point out:
Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for employees working from home as for any other employees, including the duty not to charge for things done or provided pursuant to their specific requirements.
Although physical workplace assessment may not be possible, remote electronic assessments could help workers understand where risk of injury lies. The HSE site offers great advice and a downloadable checklist for your team to optimise home working spaces.
At the height of the last lock down the supply chain for companies to distribute suitable office furniture to home addresses was unready. Now, suppliers like Insightful Environments are able to facilitate rapid delivery of compliant furniture direct to home addresses to those in your team who need it most.
In this new phase of lockdown, there's an opportunity to learn from some of the mistakes we made before. A renewed focus on the quality of our communications, mental health awareness and the physical comfort of everyone we're responsible for - will all go along way to driving collective productivity and happiness.