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Coronavirus staff guidance University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Well-being when homeworking

Last updated: 28 October 2021 at 19:15

Homeworking has many benefits with one report finding that over 97% of homeworkers recommended homeworking.

Homeworkers often report that they have a more flexible schedule, which can allow them to spend more time with family, and they save money on things such as commuting. Many state that they are more productive working from home.

However, homeworking does come with challenges with homeworkers reporting a 32% reduction in physical activity and a 38% increase in screen time.

It can also be more difficult to communicate, to clearly interpret body language or tone and to build relationships. Homeworking may feel lonely and almost one in five homeworkers report blurred lines between their work and home lives.

With this in mind, the Inclusion, Health and Well-being Team want to share with you some advice and tips on how to get the most from your online meeting and how to maintain your well-being when working virtually from home.

Online meetings

It can be helpful to have a clear set of rules everyone in the meeting can adhere to, which could include:

  • Use tools and technology that are accessible to all
  • Give out proper information, support and guidance for using the technology
  • Avoid multi-task activities
  • Find a quiet place to connect
  • Ensure each person has a chance to respond and to be heard
  • Place yourself on mute when you do not speak
  • Keep cameras on where possible

When we meet face to face there is often an opportunity for small talk, build this into your online meetings. Check in with people; try to gauge how people are feeling before you start the meeting. This is also a great opportunity to check that everyone’s IT and equipment is working well before your formally start your meeting.

It is easy to become distracted or less engaged when meeting online. Try asking "Would I do this if I was in the room with them?" to determine whether it’s okay to multitask during a meeting. It is easy to become distracted with emails and other alerts on your computer of phone, but you will get more from, participate more in and be more productive if you allow yourself to have one sole focus during meetings.

We can lose some of the nuances of communication when we meet online. It can be harder to register tone, intent and body language which are key to how we understand each other. Using emoji’s in chats can help to make this clear.

Use tools to make meetings as engaging and interactive as possible. Break out rooms are a great way to increase conversations and sharing of ideas. Polls, surveys and online questions often receive more and better feedback than verbally asking a group the same question. Consider using Slido, Microsoft Forms, Mentimetre or interactive whiteboards.

Start your meetings by checking in with everyone, how is everyone doing, what have they been doing outside of work? After this could you build in 2 minutes of meditation, breathing exercise or mindfulness?

Turn it into a virtual walking meeting. This works great for one-to-one or meetings or where you don’t really need to take notes. Grab your headphones and head outside if you can use a mobile device. Walking combined with nature is a great way to stir creativity and have you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.

Video calls are great, but sometimes it may be quicker and more productive to pick up the phone.

We often automatically schedule meetings for one hour. But how long does the meeting actually need? Schedule 50 minute meetings and use the extra time, to get a drink and move from your desk. If a meeting is longer than 60 minutes, build in a couple of minutes for attendees to move and stretch, make it clear that walking, standing and stretching during the meeting is allowed and encouraged.

How often do you schedule online meetings back to back? Build in time between meetings just as you would if you were attending face to face meetings.

The two pizza rule: if a meeting has more attendees than could be fed using two pizzas there may be too many people and you could reduce attendees or split it smaller meetings.

Maintaining wellbeing when working virtually for individuals

  • Set boundaries – screen time put stress on your eyes, so build time in your day to be away from your screen.  Set a timer, or use software to remind you to take regular time away from the screen.
  • Some can find it difficult to see where work ends and home begins, preserve your usual rituals like having breakfast getting dressed or mindfulness - just as you would before commuting to work. You could even "commute" to work when homeworking, by taking a walk around the block before you log on for the day and again when you finish work. This can really help to transition from work to home life.
  • Take breaks that work for you. It may be easy to say "yes" to every meeting when you work remotely, but breaks are essential. Try taking breaks at least every two-three hours and alternate between sitting and standing if possible. Working online means you have flexibility during breaks - stretch or exercise, read, sit on the patio, cook, run a quick errand, or have a "virtual lunch" with a colleague. Try to schedule breaks in your diary.
  • Practicing 5–10 minutes of mindfulness each day, whether it’s deep breathing, yoga, or meditation, helps to turn "off" work.
  • Don’t forget to pay attention to your physical needs. Fill your water glass throughout the day.  Listen to your body and feel when you’re tensing up. Try moving around when you would on a non-remote workday by getting up as if you’re going from one meeting to another.
  • Meet free days – are you able to schedule one day a week with no video meetings? Take calls instead and give your eyes a rest, and use the time to catch up on other work. You may feel more productive for it.

Maintaining wellbeing when working virtually for teams

  • Some people they can find it difficult to connect to others during online meetings. Many teams have WhatsApp groups to communicate, why not open these up to jokes and fun activities? Create shared playlists on Spotify, or start an online book or TV show review club. These are all things that we would normally be doing face to face but have stopped when we moved online. Don’t dismiss the positive impact that small things such as this can have on your well-being
  • Have you considered a virtual social? Colleagues can have a virtual coffee and catch up, you may not be in the same room but you can still make time to connect with each other. Even if it is just 15 minutes, make time away from notifications and emails
  • How else can you bring your team together? What about light hearted competitions, showing off your baking efforts, best workspace competition, links to favorite music and films? Many organisations have taken on the "GIF challenge", where a question is asked in a group chat, such as how is your mood, what was your last meeting like, how do you feel about the weekend, and everyone had to reply only using a GIF.  What are your other shared interests and what could you start as a ritual in your team?
  • Secret Banta is an idea that can from Time to Change. Like Secret Santa everyone in the teams picks the name of a colleague. Instead of a gift, co-workers have to give each other something personal to uplift one’s spirit. This could be an online album of pictures, video of your best moments, a list of all their funny catchphrases, a diagram showing what they are best at and so on.
  • Small acts of kindness can have an enormous impact on you and your colleagues. Send a colleague a note to say that you have been thinking about them, support each other and empathise with the unique challenges that others may be navigating at home
  • Share with your colleagues what you have been doing to support your well-being or mental health and ask them to share their tips
  • Morning emails, we might underestimate this, but starting the day with a greeting is fantastic, and it makes us more prone to sticking to a schedule. A right morning email includes a fun, colourful picture, two-three aims for the day and a few mentions of what your team did well yesterday
  • Can you set a well-being reminder for your team? Diary invites reminding your team to have snack, drink water regularly, take time away from the screen or remind them when the working day has finished
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