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Perceptions · 26 April '17

Employee wellbeing in an evolving workplace

With ways of working constantly evolving, more and more of us are working remotely, on our own and away from workplace communities. However, when considering the health and safety of our employees, we often forget about the different challenges of staff who no longer have the camaraderie of an office or work site community.

Yet remote and lone workers miss out on a number of factors that benefit our mental health such as colleague interaction, physical support and office provisions. Lone workers operating on isolated sites can easily go the whole day without interacting with anyone and many lead unhealthy lifestyles as they often go for the quickest and most accessible food and drink options.

Business case for employee wellbeing

While you hold a moral and legal responsibility to ensuring the wellbeing of your lone and remote workers, happy employees are also good for business.

2016 report from CIPD found that mental health in the workplace had a significant effect on levels of concentration, performance and productivity. The survey found that 31% of respondents suffered from mental health issues at work and 50% took time off as a result. Positive wellbeing and healthy employees will ultimately result in less sick days and prevent loss of productivity for the business.

The costs associated with low employee wellbeing;

  • Average cost of sickness absence each year = £1,500 per employee
  • UK annual cost of sickness from mental ill health = £8.1 billion
  • Average number of days lost to stress, anxiety or depression = 24 days per case

But what can you do to support the wellbeing of remote and lone workers?

  1. Keep workers connected

To prevent employees from becoming isolated, you could consider creating a virtual community so they are able to retain the social element of work life

  • Set up a WhatsApp group or internal social media channels for your workers
  • Encourage your employees to communicate on channels socially as well as being able to ask for advice on work activities
  • Consider setting up monthly staff meetings whether physical or virtual
  • Ensure supervisors are regularly supporting and communicating with their staff and addressing any issues they may have
  • Ensure remote employees are being valued and rewarded in the same way as other employees
  1. Encourage healthy living

While your office based employees may be provided free tea, coffee and healthy snacks such as fruit, your remote workers may find it easier to opt for convenient snacks and energy drinks, many of which are full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

  • Consider providing your remote workers with vouchers for healthy snacks, water and hot drinks
  • Some of your regular work sites could be fitted with kitchen facilities so they have access to water and hot drinks
  • Promote healthy living by providing advice and gym vouchers
  1. Provide mental health support

An increasing number of people now suffer from mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, many suffer alone and do not talk about mental health the way they would a physical illness.

  • Provide access to counselling services and support groups
  • Carry out stress risk assessments
  • Encourage regular breaks and set realistic targets and workloads to avoid stress
  1. Implement safety devices

While safety devices fall more into the safety side of workplace health and safety, they can also have a positive impact on employee wellbeing by reducing safety worries and creating a sense of being looked after.

  • Ensure your device allows employees to stay connected in any circumstance
  • Ensure any devices are being monitored during work hours