COVID-19 has changed the way businesses work, with many employees now undertaking their roles from home. This should offer a greater degree of flexibility and the opportunity for a better work life balance. However, a recent survey has found that there is a downside to these arrangements with the blurring of the lines between home and work – remote working employees are now spending longer at their desks and facing a bigger workload than before the Covid pandemic hit.
According to data from business support company NordNVP Teams, the average working week of British workers has been stretched by an estimated 10 hours, which is almost 25%, not logging off until 8pm.
No Natural Breaks
Before the business world was turned on it’s head by the pandemic, people’s days were broken up into neat sections.
Most people had a ‘commute’ to work – where that was a 10-minute walk or an hour on a train, but it was a clear signal that the working day had started. And the same goes for the other end of the day – the journey home meant for most that the working day had finished.
Without these activities the boundaries start to be confused raising the question of whether you are working where you live or living where you work.
Another contributing factor to the longer hours is the current social restrictions. With a ban on meeting up with friends and family, no one has any real commitments outside work which negates necessity to stop.
The right to disconnect
The survey highlighted that a longer working day is not just a British issue, with the US, Canada and Austria seeing similar rises.
However, in 2017 the European Parliament Employment Committee issued a non-binding resolution to the effect that individuals have a “fundamental right to disconnect” therefore protecting their workers to a point.
Under the rules, if an agreement is not reached between the company and unions or other employee representatives, the company must publish a charter that outlines what the demands on and rights of employees would be for out-of-hours working during standard working practice.
Some companies in France have gone for more extreme measures such as cutting email connections in the evening and weekends or even destroying emails automatically that are sent to employees while they are on holiday.
Under the French law, there are no direct sanctions on companies for not implementing the rules, but an employee can sue if they feel their rights have been infringed.
At present, it is unlikely that our government will implement similar laws anytime soon, but there are health and safety provisions in place that could apply - and there is growing pressure on businesses to monitor and manage their employee’s overall health and wellbeing.
Setting standards and leading by example
An effective solution to address the issue of longer hours is for employers to clearly communicate to their staff what their expectations are of them in working hours and outside of working hours – including the use of work technology like emails, text or instant messenger – and leading by example. Setting the precedent by not sending or responding to emails in the evenings and weekends is a good start.
Protecting employee’s health & wellbeing
The importance of your employee’s health and wellbeing was highlighted by the recent ONS’ Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. It showed that the numbers of adults experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of depression had increased from 10% between June 2019 and March 2020 to 19% in June 2020.
The stresses of juggling work with home schooling and childcare, the isolation for those that live alone, and job security worries can all lead to mental health issues.
Employers need to encourage interactivity and continued engagement within their teams and make sure their staff have the correct support and equipment to do their jobs.
Bringing Health & Wellbeing to the forefront of your business
Forrest Health & Wellbeing believe that helping your employees with their health and wellbeing is a crucial part to your business’s success, so we have developed two bespoke programmes offering a unique service delivered by industry experts.
For the full information on the Forrest Health & Wellbeing’s programmes, go to www.ForrestHW.com or call us on 01892 726060.
If you need HR support for your business to guide you through this challenging time, ForrestHR can help. Visit our website www.ForrestHR.com or call us on 01892 726060.