Here to Help: Home working – 5 ways to help take care of your team’s mental health
Working from home is fast becoming the norm as the country tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
But it comes with various challenges for your accountancy team – and it’s not only the technical stuff about how to get the job done when you’re not in the office.
It’s also about mental health.
One of the priorities for all accountancy practice owners has to be to help their team maintain healthy minds and good morale, despite the isolation and the inevitable anxieties that abound in a crisis like this.
If your employees are struggling with the anxieties and difficulties of living through these unprecedented circumstances, while also continuing their day job in a different setting, then here are five ways to take care of their mental health and help them to work productively.
1.Emphasise the positives
Although we’ve only talked about challenges so far in this article, there are clearly benefits from working from home. And for anyone in the team who you think may be struggling to adapt or feeling low, it’s worth reminding them of these. One of the top has to be getting them to think about the commute they’re missing. Encourage them each morning to picture all the frustrations, delays, and irritations that each journey brings, and think how much nicer an alternative it is to simply go downstairs to their desks. Comparing and contrasting in this way can be a helpful way to see the positives of the current situation. The fact they can see more of their loved ones is another advantage of being at home more often, and it’s worth reiterating this too.
In a strange way, working from home can make it harder to have proper breaks – particularly lunch - because there’s no clear separation anymore. When staff are at the office, they might go to the shop, take a walk, or go to the canteen or kitchen to eat their food at lunchtime, but it can be easier to slip into the habit of just carrying on working when at home. It is always beneficial (and a legal requirement, if you work full time) to have a lunch break during the day. Not taking breaks puts staff at risk of burnout and makes them less productive. So, encourage staff to set and stick to a regular lunch time and also to step away from the screen for five or ten minutes in the morning and mid-afternoon.
On a related note to breaks is taking exercise. Despite the lockdown, everyone is permitted to have one outside session of walking, running, or cycling each day. And in these times of confinement, it’s even more important to take advantage. Even in normal times, we know how harmful a desk job can be to our health. During any period of isolation it is inevitable you will become more sedentary, so stretching your legs and getting fresh air is more important than ever. A quick walk and change of scene boosts both physical and mental wellbeing. Being outside and among nature is scientifically proven to enhance happiness, as this news item reports. It’s important to remind your team of this and encourage them to take exercise each day.
4.Watch out for loneliness
There’s a clear danger for many of us, especially those living on their own, to rapidly begin feeling lonely and isolated. It’s especially important for business owners to identify staff who are in this situation. When we are confined in our homes, and purely communicating over email and phone, it makes it much harder to assess how our colleagues are feeling and coping. However, it’s not impossible. It’s really important to talk to your staff individually, and make it clear you are there for them, should they need you. Ask questions, show an interest in their lives, see whether they have everything they need, and most importantly, keep the channels of communications open.
5.Check in on comfort
Workspace is very important to mental health while working from home, yet it can also be the biggest challenge to get right. In an ideal situation, it will be a quiet room away from any communal areas of the home, but not the bedroom. However, not everyone has the luxury of space. The crucial thing is your staff can find a way to set up that is comfortable, with a supportive chair. You want them to avoid developing any physical difficulties like RSI or back problems – all of which will also adversely affect mental as well as physical health. It’s important for employers to check in with staff that they have the right guidance for correct, safe working, and the equipment that goes with it. It’s also worth encouraging your team to look at some excellent instructions from the NHS about how to set up your workspace for a healthy body and mind.
Check out our hub for more resources and information on how IRIS can support your accountancy practice to thrive, despite these uncertain times.
If you are struggling to get your team working as if they are in the office, let one of our remote working experts give you a call. Contact us on 0344 815 5656.