24 August 2020

Transitioning Workplaces

Investment in workplace health and safety was catapulted into everyday budgets and conversation through the onset of the current global pandemic. The content of our history books and movies has become our working and living reality.

As of July 2020, we have four typical working environs in our new normal- the planned remote, the unplanned for remote, the hybrid and finally at our usual workplace with Covid-19 Return to Work Safety Protocols in place. Change management has become an even greater crucial spoke in the workplace health wheel. Many organisations, one such is Grow Remote, are working hard to support leaders in this space and are bringing their expertise to the table. Although the acute remote working situation was not ideal many are now putting the scaffolding around workplaces post the move to remote rather than the desired scaffold first then build. It’s a start.

Working from home has brought many psychosocial conditions central to organisational success and productivity to the forefront. Mental Health First Aid Ireland Working from Home Survey published in July 2020 provides the latest evidence-based data on working from home through the current pandemic. Data was collected from respondents to the questionnaire in May and June 2020 and used globally recognised instruments of measurement including the WHO -5 Wellbeing Index. The report found that of those working from home:

  • 31.7% reported not being happy with their current work life balance
  • 33% frequently felt isolated working at home
  • 59% are worried about job security
  • 38.7% harbour health concerns for family members
  • 40% of respondents were found to be experiencing poor wellbeing as defined under the WHO 5 Well
    Being Index.
  • 34.3% of respondents agreed that they found working at home to be motivational
  • 57.9% agreed that they loved the autonomy that home working presented
  • 72.6% felt trusted by their employers

Clearly from the data above we need to invest in wellbeing programmes and training for our employees. Investment in communication tools for employees and continuing to nurture colleague and managerial relationships at work will support the social connection work traditionally provided that is now challenging for workers in the new normal.

I recall a webinar I hosted in collaboration with Galway Chamber in April 2020 where in a zoom poll for the 22 participants, none had worked in a remote capacity prior to March 2020. In a further question, all were asked could they carry out their job role while working remotely with a 100 % Yes response rate from participants. A further and final question asked was could they see themselves working remotely post Covid and this got a 80 % Yes response and a 20% No. The No responders citing the social connection of work as the primary reason for needing to get back to the office. It is the social connection that we must focus on for thriving workforces transitioning to remote and hybrid workspaces. We must get creative to retain the social support and connection through relationships that workplaces previously provided for us. Here is a link to some virtual team building ideas that could be carried out to build morale on teams.

Author Dorothy Scarry is owner of Workplace Health and Wellbeing Ltd, the leading organisation to support evidence-based training in workplace health and resilience across sectors. Dorothy holds a MSc in Workplace Health and Wellbeing from Nottingham University.

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