There is no doubt that the current pandemic has forced the world to move forward with flexible and remote working, a conversation that has been in the works for a while and has been moved up a few notches due to the situation where employees have simply had to work from home.
We previously admitted that we are missing the office and that is very much still the case, perhaps now more than ever.
Whilst the future is still uncertain with regards to home vs office working, it is important that employers and employees consider the impact of home working on the workforce sooner rather than later.
A study has been carried out and reported by the Daily Mail, whereby a model named 'Susan' has been created to consider what a home-worker would look like in 2045. Whilst for many of us this might seem far-fetched and too far in the future to consider, this experiment should teach us serious lessons on actions that need to be taken now.
The experiment has suggested that 'Susan' would be suffering from terrible posture, obesity and ‘digital eye strain’ from staring at a computer screen all day. This might not sound like the worst, but this is something that would impact our physical and mental health and which we should definitely seek to avoid.
What can employees and workers do to avoid it?
Whilst you are not returning to the office just yet, you can still take steps to avoid becoming 'Susan'. It is great for many of us to no longer spend time commuting to and from the office and that has absolutely saved hours per week that we can now spend with our nearest and dearest or cultivating some fun hobbies. At the same time, the lack of commuting has made us a great deal more sedentary which is unhealthy.
The recommendation is for us all to continue to undertake some physical activity of whatever form we feel comfortable. Perhaps it is a low-impact online exercise class that you can do in your living room or even a lunchtime stretch session? One of our wonderful solicitors doubles up as a qualified yoga instructor and she has kindly given up her time once a week to offer a yoga class on zoom for our colleagues (it has been a fantastic way to get away from the screen and up an stretching!). You could also work around the British summer and take a walk in the sometimes-present sunshine, which will in turn increase exposure to Vitamin D too that we do not get sitting indoors.
Also, make sure that you take regular breaks from your desk as you would have done in the office. Admittedly, a regular walk to the biscuit tin (guilty!) is probably not the recommendation, but a wander around the house, a step to the kitchen for that cup of tea or something easy like that would be enough to break up the day and make sure that you get up from your chair.
How can employers support their employees?
It is not for employers to dictate their employees' personal lives or 'life outside of work'. However, encouraging employees to continue to consider their work-life balance is still important as it will allow those workers to make sure that they get some much needed physical movement and mental breaks regularly.
Some employers may even want to consider whether they do have any facilities to encourage activities - how about a fun challenge for the teams to get their daily steps in? There are plenty of apps that could connect the employees and this could also become a way of connecting the teams in a new way whilst they are a little isolated at their respective homes.
Unfortunately, we are solicitors and so our advice is usually more limited to the letters and spirits of the laws as opposed to physical activities but we are definitely in favour of companies and employees ensuring that the team spirits continue to be kept alive.
Our expert employment team can assist you
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.