Employers can help employees combat loneliness while working from home. Some simple steps include:
Continuing to hold usual team or company meetings virtually to stay in touch and provide important updates. Also holding social catch ups at the end of each week to replace Friday socials
Ensuring employees who have been furloughed remain engaged; include them in any social events and stay in contact with them.
Encouraging employees to reach out if they are feeling lonely.
‘Meeting’ a colleague for a virtual coffee or lunch.
Asking a colleague how they are finding the change in lockdown routines.
Reminding employees of support that is available to them. There are some great external and confidential resources available from the charity Mind.
Providing employees with information on plans you have to reopen your workplace.
Sharing ways in which employees can combat loneliness away from work. Examples include arranging to watch a film at the same time as a friend over a video call or looking for virtual book or films clubs or pub quizzes.
Loneliness can also lead to stress in some individuals; Educating line managers on how to recognise the signs of stress without being face to face can help.
Signs of stress can include:
Seeming less engaged with work.
Not joining calls or meetings.
A drop in work quality or missing deadlines.
Changes in their tone of voice and attitude.
Increased time off sick.
Here are some tips on effective home working
Get dressed each morning. You don’t have to wear your normal work attire, but you do need to change your mindset from relaxed pyjamas to alert business time.
Where possible stick to your usual working hours, sleep times and break times to provide structure to your day. Maintain a structured meal plan; with a proper breakfast, lunch, and dinner away from where you’ve been working.
Ideally, you should have a dedicated office space with a door that can be closed to those you live with. If a designated office space is not possible, then try working in different parts of your home to break up the day and keep your mind focused.
Use natural daylight, especially after lunch, to keep you alert and work-orientated when you’re feeling tired. Though don’t fall into the trap of working outside on lovely sunny days – it’s hard to read the screen and you’ll quickly find yourself napping or whiling away the day without realising.
Set yourself a ‘to-do’ list at the beginning of each day/week, to keep you motivated, with achievable deadlines to stop you procrastinating or getting side-tracked.
Although it’s important to stay connected, leave yourself time between calls and virtual meetings, and turn off instant messengers to focus on your to-do list.
Just as you do when you leave the office (hopefully), switch off your work emails and calls at a set time so that your personal time remains as such.
Similarly, set boundaries with the people you live with (including your children) and put your phone on airplane mode to avoid getting distracted, particularly if you have a tight deadline or lots to do.
Use sound-blocking earplugs, headphones or earmuffs to distance yourself from the familiar world around you and aid concentration.
In contrast with the above, working from home gives you flexibility and sometimes it might be worth using this to your advantage; by changing your hours to suit personal requirements or to dial into overseas meetings.
Work at a desk or table with adequate knee/foot clearance so that you can sit/stand close to your laptop.
Use a separate keyboard and mouse with your laptop.
Position the keyboard and mouse directly in front of you within easy reach.
Position your laptop so that the top of the screen is level with your eye height. If you don’t have a laptop riser, use a box file or some books to raise your laptop. Or plug in a separate monitor if you have one.
If sitting, use an adjustable chair. Use a rolled-up hand towel for extra lower back support, if needed. If your chair is too low, sit on a cushion to raise your seat height.
Maintain a good posture; if sitting, try to ensure that the small of your back is supported, your shoulders are relaxed (not slumped, not elevated), and that there is no unwelcome pressure on the back of your knees. If standing (e.g. at your kitchen worktop), keep your legs, torso, neck and head approximately in line and vertical – don’t slouch, lean or twist to the side.
Don’t sit or stand for too long – change your posture every few minutes and take regular micro-breaks away from your laptop.
Remember we all need to take time to look after ourselves it will mean we are better equipped to support others.