Encouraging your employees to disconnect from the virtual office

diverse woman working from home on sofa, virtual officeWorking patterns have significantly changed because of the pandemic. At the end of the traditional working day, employees could ‘leave work at the door’ and return home to their personal lives.

However, this separation is being eroded during lockdown with working from home becoming the norm for millions of workers. As a result, many employees admit they clock in more working hours during lockdown and are also failing to switch off during non-working hours.

Working extra hours for an extended period can result in underlying stress and even employee burnout. Therefore, it is important for team leaders and line managers to be aware of this  and proactively address any unhealthy overworking patterns before they become a habit. Below are a few things that managers can think about when motivating their teams to effectively recharge.

Effective communication is key

People can be reluctant to ask for help, and this is particularly true within the workplace. Managers and team leaders should therefore regularly check in and encourage an environment where employees feel empowered to communicate openly about their hardships during lockdown. We also suggest using these conversations as an opportunity to ask about your colleague’s health beyond the workplace. Try to assess how many hours they are clocking in each week, whether they are disconnecting from the workload each night after they finish, and whether they are happy in their present situation. If needed, encourage them to schedule some annual leave to properly disconnect from the workplace.

Manage workloads and consider capacity 

Keep your eyes peeled for early signs of stress amongst your employees, these can include working long hours, a difficulty sleeping or eating, illness and fatigue. If you identify an employee who is struggling, we suggest using managing resources internally to ease the burden on this individual. Although, if capacity across the company is an issue then perhaps you can consider bringing in some temporary staff members to ease pressure on existing employees.

Schedule breaks from screens

Remind employees they would rarely spend eight hours glued to their desks if they were working in an office space as they would work in meeting rooms or in communal areas during lunch breaks. It’s important to highlight the health benefits of walking around the home office or doing exercise at lunchtime, which help to keep the blood flowing and to momentarily distract minds from work. To effectively do this we also suggest blocking out lunchtime hours to enable employees to enjoy their leisure time and to minimise any worrying of needing to rush back for meetings and calls.

Organising team and company activities

Many employees we speak to tell us how much they value an employer who creatively thinks of ways to improve their overall wellbeing, including their mental health and social interaction with others. A boost to morale is especially important during these unprecedented times. We recommend thinking about group activities that can bring together your employees, especially those who might not work together on a daily basis. It’s also worth noting that these activities do not have to be expensive if resourcing is a concern. Activities such as arts and crafts, virtual quizzes and group exercise workouts will go a long way to improving morale.

Sheri HughesAbout the author

Sheri Hughes is the UK D&I Director at Michael Page. In this role, she is responsible for all D&I in the UK with a focus on creating a more inclusive working environment in order to achieve better diversity.


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