With more than two-thirds of Australians currently working from home  on a more permanent basis, the days of teams being based together in one central location may become a thing of the past.
We need to remember that while some individuals enjoy working from home, this definitely is not the case for all. Some of the struggles that employees encounter whilst working remotely at home, include:
- Feeling isolated or lonely
- Lack of IT support
- Not being able to switch off at the end of the day
- Working longer hours
- Communication and collaboration difficulties
- Not feeling appreciated or receiving feedback
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of social interaction and building of support networks
- Poor set up or lack of proper work area
- Home schooling and having children at home
- Lack of structure to the day
As such, working from home is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Furthermore, simply because your staff aren’t in the office, does not mean you’re not responsible for their health, safety, and wellbeing.
Australian safety legislation states that the workplace health and safety duties of employers apply to both physical and mental health, and further, employers are required to protect employees from psychological risks while they are at work.
The definition of psychological risks refers to the design or management of work that causes stress. This is generally due to the effect that severe or prolonged stress can have on mental health, which may then lead to physical injuries.
Therefore, as a minimum you should consider implementing the following actions to ensure your staff have a safe working environment when working from home.
1) Ensure your staff have a safe home working environment
Ensure you have a current Working from Home Policy and that Risk Assessments have been undertaken for each staff member working from home.
Communicate with your staff about how to set up and maintain their workstation and explain the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, including how to avoid sitting for too longer periods.
Encourage staff to set daily reminders to get up, stretch, and exercise while they are sitting at their desk.
Implement walking tea meetings via phone / facetime / online etc.
2) Provide necessary work equipment
Staff should be allowed to take their work equipment home to carry out their job. This may include a headset for the phone or a laptop, a second computer monitor or any other necessary piece of equipment for work purposes.
Staff shouldn’t be required to use their personal equipment for work.
3) Maintain regular communication
It’s very important to touch base with staff on a regular basis. This will assist with engagement and inclusion, and can be as simple as an online meeting with the team, even if it’s just an informal chat over a cup of coffee. These catchups can also be used as a resource to keep track of current work activities and tasks, checking what the team is working on, if any assistance is required or if there are any concerns or questions. This simple step can make a huge difference to morale and motivation.
4) Provide support and resources for mental health assistance
The global pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, whether it’s personal or work-related. Reach out to your staff and see how they are going mentally. According to government statics there has been a significant rise in coercive control and family violence since the beginning of the pandemic. With that in mind, provide a Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and give staff access to contact details for important services such as Beyond Blue or White Ribbon Australia. This may be especially important for those that may find themselves a victim of domestic violence.
It’s also important to provide a point of contact at work who your staff can speak to if they have any concerns or questions or encourage them to contact your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
If you’re a small business owner, you may need to be prepared to be that contact person if you don’t have a dedicated HR department. Alternatively, you could consider using an outsourced HR provider.
5) IT Support
Unreliable internet connections, poor quality video calls, and troubleshooting laptop or computer issues can take up time, cause frustration and be demotivating. Providing IT support via a phone call can make your staff feel supported. If you don’t have an IT department, it may be handy to engage a company that delivers remote tech support.
Extra tips to increase engagement and boost team morale while Working from Home
When it comes to keeping your staff engaged and motivated, think outside the box! Incorporate some of the following activities and tips to remind your staff that they’re appreciated.
- Themed or after-work online parties
Once a month, organise a get-together online. Choose a theme (for example, Halloween, Black tie, Loudest Shirt or Pyjamas) and invite your staff to log on and socialise.
- Send lunch via Uber Eats / Care Boxes
Uber Eats can deliver directly to your staff’s door and they will appreciate the thought, and the food. There are also options to organise Care Boxes, or gourmet ready-to-eat healthy meals, so lunch is ready-to-go.
- Allow flexibility
It’s important to keep in mind that working at home will sometimes mean parents need to step away to ensure their kids are engaged in activities while they concentrate on their work-tasks. For team members who have been working longer hours, give them time to take a mental health day or allow them to bank hours for some time-off when restrictions are lifted.
- Have an annual awards night
Inspire and motivate your staff with the chance to win awards that culminate with an event, either online or face-to-face once lockdown restrictions are lifted. The awards can be organised in a fun way while also recognising staff for the dedication and effort they’ve put in throughout the pandemic. A couple of examples are Employee of the Year or Best Attire during an online meeting.
- Staff incentives
Cash rewards, gift cards or even accommodation can make great incentives to inspire your team to take their efforts to the next level.
- Health benefits
Including health insurance as part of the salary package shows your staff you care about their health and wellbeing.
- Virtual team bonding
Taking 10-30 minutes out of the day to play trivia, charades, or Pictionary online can help boost team morale and give a sense of camaraderie, even though your employees all work remotely.
If you have any further questions or require any assistance in relation to your responsibilities when it comes to working from home, please do not hesitate to get in touch with enrichHR. We’re here to support you, your staff, and your business.