Today, many companies are facing the global health crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced them to ask their employees to stay at home and work remotely. If on one hand, this could be the opportunity to finally build a culture of long-overdue work flexibility, on the other hand we should be careful about the disruptive way in which many workers are testing it for the first time.
Our working lives have never been so massively changed in such a short time. The current situation brought, with no warning, a lot of uncertainty, doubts, questions and worries. Many workers, whose routine was disrupted, experience unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety due to the rapidly changed working conditions.
Eurofound foresees that, even though the full impacts of COVID-19 on the labour market are still to be seen, however, it is likely that rates of telework in Europe, and as a result employer/employee relationships, will be changed permanently, and has announced the publication of a report devoted to analyse the implications of COVID-19 on employment and working life.
As more companies encourage their teams to stay away from centrally located offices, there is much to be learnt from those businesses that have already embedded a remote or home-working culture. Having to adopt this model in a time of crisis isn’t easy – but there are a lot of positives that can be reaped as a result.
Indeed, this dystopian situation can actually be a way to build and spread a culture of work flexibility among all of those companies that used to be skeptical about it still one month ago. In particular, in relation to older office workers, remote working can develop flexible solutions and change employer attitudes, reducing obstacles such as health conditions and caring responsibilities, which can cause them to exit the workforce earlier than they choose to. Additionally, working from home can help to create a more sustainable path into retirement that is good for them, for society and for the economy. The time and energy saved on daily commuting can be used for hobbies that have been postponed for a long time.
We have little impact on what’s going on in the world right now. The best we can do is to “stay at home” as asked by the authorities. Luckily, this is easier for many office workers than for the others, because they can continue their work in those conditions. This requires of course developing new habits and finding the best practices. It might be more difficult for the older office workers who might have not experienced this way of work before.
We looked at some ways the office workers can find themselves in this home-office reality. What are the pieces of advice shared by the experts?
Rapid change of the working conditions, new worries and loneliness – this can of course affect our mental health. If you have ongoing health or mental health conditions, even if they aren’t disclosed, your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. In the case of distance working, it could mean additional support from managers, or equipment.
It’s quite likely that we will need to accept a certain amount of distress and anxiety relating to the coronavirus outbreak, in the short and medium term. If you have self-care techniques that work for you, try and make sure that you have what you need. You may need to think differently – for example doing exercise workouts from videos instead of attending classes. You may want to consider looking at mindfulness practice or finding ways to help others in your community. Self-compassion, and support for others is going to be very important.
The current situation shows that we need smart solutions that can track employees’ health and wellbeing. We particularly need SmartWork solutions that will support active and healthy ageing at work for older office workers, even if they are not in their centralised office, and especially in the novel and stressful situation as we experience today.
In the Face of the Coronavirus, Workplace Wellness is Key
Sorry, but Working From Home Is Overrated
Adjusting to a new normal: What we have learned from the first weeks of the work-from-home era
Looking after your mental health while working during the Coronavirus outbreak