Seven tips for supporting employee wellbeing when working remotely
After seeing the benefits of remote working over the past two years, many organisations have made major changes to the way they operate. Sage Accounts Solutions is one of these businesses. In November 2020, the training and consulting company went fully virtual, shutting down their physical office. Everybody now works from home.
We spoke to Managing Director Bec Wooderson, to get her tips on how to support a team where everyone works from different locations.
- Have a culture that embraces wellbeing
Having a company culture that takes employee wellbeing seriously and regards it as a priority is critical. At Sage Accounts Solutions, Bec feels that this was an important factor in their successful transition to becoming a fully virtual business.
‘Wellbeing is always at the forefront of our mind, and that runs deeply in our culture and values. We’re family run and to a certain extent we see our team as an extension of our family. Our day-to-day client work is also about mentoring, training, providing guidance and giving people clarity and confidence. I think that nurturing culture extends to the way we work with each other across the team.’
- Listen to your employees
Listening to employees is an essential part of supporting wellbeing, particuarly in guiding decisions that will impact them. This includes the original decision to go virtual.
Bec comments ‘After the pandemic hit, I asked my team about how they were feeling about working from home and what they wanted to do. Everybody said they loved it and wanted to continue, and in the end we closed our office.’
Listening is also critical in spotting if any employee is having particular issues around wellbeing. This is harder to do when everyone is working remotely.
‘Listening is key for wellbeing, but sometimes it’s about what people are not telling you. If someone is struggling it’s not so easy to spot when you’re in a remote virtual environment. We’re now acutely aware if people seem distracted or not being as vocal as they usually are, then one of the managers will ask them if everything is okay.’
- Run virtual co-working sessions
Loneliness and isolation caused by homeworking can lead to mental health issues. The Sage Accounts Solutions team run online co-working sessions where employees can connect and replicate the feeling of being in an office. This is entirely voluntary, and employees can always step out if they need to focus or have a break from being online.
‘We run co-working sessions using Microsoft Teams where we’re in a virtual office space. It allows us to experience the types of things that you would hear in the office such as small talk or someone answering the phone. It gives us that community feel and sense of being with your colleagues.’
- Ensure new recruits want to work from home
Previously the team all worked in East Anglia, but working remotely has opened up opportunities to employee people from all over the country. Bec stresses that it’s important to employ people comfortable with working from home.
‘When we advertise a role, we are very specific that it is a working from home remote position. We also ask appropriate questions in the interview to assess their suitability. We are acutely aware that working from home is not for everybody.’
- Support health and safety
As an employer, the Sage Accounts Solutions team take their health and safety responsibilities very seriously. With the switch to homeworking, employers have less control over the working environment of employees, but have various responsibilities they must carry out. Note that the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive has information about home working for employers.
Bec explains ‘We are very careful to ask for a monthly health & safety self-assessment for an employee’s workspace at home in terms of ergonomics, fire risks and other issues. It’s critical that staff are set up properly in terms of how they have set up their desk, the height of the screen, the position of their chair and so on.’
- Be transparent about working hours
Working virtually allows people to have more flexible working patterns. Bec regards this as a great opportunity to support wellbeing.
‘It’s important to give employees choice and flexibility on how they work and what will best support their wellbeing. That has worked very well for us – as long as people get their work done – it’s up to them how they achieve that.’
At the same time, being transparent about when an employee is working, helps ensure the team work well together and sets expectations.
‘We have a policy that everybody is transparent about their working hours and their inbox hours. This sets expectations about when people can expect a reply from an email, for example, and also encourages everybody to stick to boundaries of when they’re working or not. We also actively ensure staff finish on time.’
- Run wellbeing sessions
To help people de-stress the team instigated wellness sessions.
‘We have a personal trainer that delivered monthly online wellness sessions for the team, she’s recorded a number of ten to fifteen minutes sessions on wellbeing and physical health which our team can access on-demand. We also ran a session on mindfulness and coping with stress.’
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