World Health Day 2020: The Effects of Remote Working on Employees

07 Apr 2020

5 min read

Over the past 70 years, 7th April has been marking the commemoration of World Health Day. This internationally recognised campaign aims to shed light on important health issues such as mental health, maternity and climate change, whilst promoting healthier living habits. [1]

In light of the current COVID-19 situation which is being experienced globally, whole countries are being put on lock down, others enforcing self-quarantine and many companies suggesting that it would be best for employees to work remotely. Whilst flexibility is usually seen as a benefit, stress is very common at a time like this, especially for those who have never worked remotely before.

Stress Resulting from Remote Working

If stress is not controlled, it may result in decreased productivity, sleep disturbances, anxiety, burnout and even depression, amongst others. For those who are working remotely for the first time in their career, this might also be a shock to them mentally. This is because most people would be used to interacting with other employees at the office. This situation might make some employees feel more isolated. If lack of social interaction is what you are worried about, there are various means through which one can still interact with their co-workers and managers; such as emails, Skype, Zoom and Facetime. Through these means, you can also set up meetings with your managers to update them of the work you have been doing from home.

Work-Life Balance

Due to this rapid change in working styles and the requirement to work remotely, some employees may have a completely wrong idea of what is expected of them whilst working from home. There is a very popular belief and old mentality that people who work remotely, do not really work and just waste time. Which is why, in typical circumstances throughout the year, a lot of companies do not offer this sort of flexibility. Thus, some may think that they should be constantly proving that they are working hard all day. Due to this, some employees may end up working with no break and perhaps even work longer hours, to the point that some don’t even close their laptops during the evening. This could be to show their employer or manager that they are actually working or it could also be because it is more difficult to switch off when working from home. However, there still needs to be a work-life balance and one should still establish boundaries when not in the workplace.

When working from home, limit the time you spend checking work emails to specific times of the day, for instance, only allow yourself to check your work emails until 6pm. Mute any notifications related to work after 6pm and switch off your laptop. Make a to-do list at the end of the day, to know exactly what you need to do the next day. This will help you not worry and switch off completely from work mode.

This ties in with the next point; learn to say no. Especially if you’re still starting out at a new job or if you pride yourself for being efficient and hard-working, you may not want to give anyone the wrong idea by declining tasks. However, if someone asks you to do something outside of working hours, you have all the right to say that you will be able to do it the next day in the morning unless it is a life or death situation, which in most cases, it wouldn’t be.

Positive Thinking

A recommendation to protecting your mental health during the outbreak is to avoid burnout. With not knowing how long and how many more people this virus will be affecting, this is a time of uncertainty for everyone. It is suggested for everyone to continue to access nature and sunlight whenever possible. Burnout can also be prevented by doing exercise, eating well and staying hydrated. It might feel strange and useless to take a break whilst working from home. However, even just a 5-minute break every hour, perhaps to prepare a cup of tea or to get some healthy snacks, can help increase productivity and manage stress levels.

Seek Support

Last but not least, always seek support. You might not feel comfortable speaking to everyone about your mental health. However, if there is a colleague, an HR member or if your employment offers therapy sessions, do take advantage of these. Speaking about it may relieve stress and help you feel understood, especially now, when everyone is in the same situation. In this way, you will also help avoid feeling isolated![5]

It is highly understandable, that at a time like this, your mental health will be affected. Thus, it would be better to slow down as to not overwhelm yourself. In the long run, this will help you stay productive.

A way to help you feel better mentally, is to look at the situation in a positive way. If you usually work in an open space or a big office, chances are that you are unable to concentrate and get distracted quite a lot with co-workers speaking and things happening around you. Working from home allows you to have some quiet time to really focus on important deadlines.

GVZH Employee Benefits

At GVZH, we take mental health very seriously, which is why flexible hours are offered to all the staff members at the company, throughout the whole year. Flexibility means working remotely if need be, as well as flexi-hours both in the morning and evening. At GVZH, we prioritise work-life balance and promote that employees at the firm take their break. These employee benefits are offered not just during rough patches like these, but always.