How to support people & employees adapting to working from home

Olof Ekman
Jan 26, 2021

Our workplaces have changed in an instant - from open seating to your kitchen table. Many of our well-established routines, habits, and behaviors went with it. No more commutes, lunch breaks with your colleagues, or simple changes of the environment throughout the day. Instead, we spend most days working alone from our kitchen or living room with minimal movement and not much variety throughout the day. 

How does this impact our performance, well-being, and overall work satisfaction?

Recent research gives us an idea:

Social isolation and loneliness top the list of challenges for remote workers with 37% of survey respondents citing it as their top issue with remote work.¹

It turns out that those seemingly fruitless chats over coffee and casual chitchats over lunch are more important than we might think. With endless Zoom calls, the opportunities for meaningful connections with your colleagues are rare. 

I recently finished a program where I was working with forty 20year-olds stuck at home to support them to change their habits. Do you know what most of them wanted to do? Figure out a way to go for a walk each day.

Lack of movement was the second top challenge for remote workers, with 35% saying they aren’t moving enough.¹

Maybe you were biking to work before and that gave you a daily dose of exercise. Or even if you just walked to and from the bus or moved between meetings you at least got a bit of movement each day. 

It also turns out that your seemingly overpriced office chair had your back:

45% said they are experiencing back and joint pain since they started working from home. 71% said the pain has either gotten worse or it’s a new pain they’re experiencing since working from home.¹

But most of all, and I think we all can feel it, it’s impacting our mental health. I notice this with myself, I hear it from the people I coach and the research is pretty clear: 

Almost half (48%) of survey respondents said they’re experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression since working from home.¹

And even if the lockdown is just temporary, it looks like working from home will be part of the new norm:

Only 12% want to return to full-time office work, and 72% want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward.²

So how can we support people and employees to adapt to the new world of work? 

Here are 3 simple ideas to start the process:

1. Create opportunities for meaningful connections

Not being able to meet IRL has taken away spontaneous interactions among employees and instead, each time we do meet, it’s to talk about the endless list of TODOs and future strategies. 

Even though we can’t meet face to face right now, we can create an environment for open sharing, reflection and vulnerability with digital tools. 

I’m fortunate to spend most of my days facilitating group sessions where people come to reflect, learn and play. My job is to create a space where people can feel safe to share what’s on their mind and share their struggles. It’s often a very different atmosphere to their work meetings, and they get to hear from others in the same situation, often realizing that they are not alone in their struggles. 

We are all feeling a bit isolated at the moment and many are craving more meaningful connections. What can help is to create a space for your employees especially for them to connect with others over struggles and wishes. Having someone external facilitate can help people open up and share the truth of their struggles and wishes. Also, do what you can to make this space feel different from a regular work meeting. You can play soothing music. Start with an exercise that sets the expectations right. It could be to simply ask a question like “Where is your attention right now?

Want to support your employees adapting to working from home?

2. Invite your people to reflect upon their individual needs 

Many people working from home haven’t had the opportunity to stop and reflect upon what their needs and wants are since their home office transition. The chances are you haven’t even noticed how little you are moving during the day, where your growing back pain comes from and how not changing your environment or meeting colleagues during the day affects your productivity.

Take a break from the onslaught of Zoom meetings and create a space for your team, colleagues or employees to think about their wants and needs right now in order to help them stay on top of things and protect their well-being.

Questions you can ask: 

What are you missing right now? What haven’t you done in a long time that would be good for you? What have you neglected lately? What’s something you would want to be different right now? 

3. Create groups of support & accountability

It might be as simple as creating a slack channel where people can share a commitment they have and where others can support them and hold them accountable if they wish. 

It could be a challenge like they do at my wife’s office where they encourage each other to go for a walk each day and take a photo and share it with the rest.

It could be a weekly check-in where people meet to share their successes and struggles concerning a change or a habit they are working on. 

You can create a peer coaching system where people can pair up and meet regularly to talk, support each other, and share tips and resources. 

Find ways to make it playful so people find it easy to interact. And don’t be afraid of mixing a playful vibe with a bit more depth and seriousness.

Conclusion

We are at the very beginning of a revolution in how we work. Organizations that want to stay ahead need to invest in their people now more than ever. A bit of back-pain can quickly become a big problem unless you are proactive about it. 

The key to all this is to make sure you are creating a space that does not feel like work. Invite people, don’t say it’s mandatory. Allow people to do this during their normal working hours. After all, it’s about work and will benefit everyone equally. And it can help have someone from outside your organization facilitating the process so people can feel safe to put their guard down and feel appreciated and valued by the company. 

Support your people adapting to the new world of work is a program I’ve developed to do exactly that. If you are an organization or team leader who prides themselves on looking ahead and strive to support your employees to perform at their best while enjoying their work, send me an email and I will send you more info. 

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