As the UK looks to start afresh in 2021, it’s vital that the lessons we’ve learned about the need to maintain a healthy work life balance are acted upon. I’ve spoken to countless friends and colleagues who love the freedom that comes with remote working and want to make this flexibility a permanent part of their professional lives. With attitudes to work shifting, I certainly don’t anticipate employers summoning everyone back to the office straight away. 

This means that, with blended working on the rise and working from home set to be the norm for at least a couple of days a week, we now need to address instances of employee fatigue after a day of consecutive video meetings. With minor adjustments, we can use the technology to our advantage to create a healthier, happier relationship with work. 

Use different channels

Dealing with different communication methods can be one of the trickiest challenges about remote working. Even a day full of in person meetings is exhausting – some companies have made the mistake of just pivoting to more online meetings in the diaries instead of making use of the various communication methods which remote working allows. 

One consideration to always bear in mind is whether the meeting you are scheduling is absolutely necessary. Most of the time, decisions can be agreed and content finalised without the need to meet. The best remote working companies are judicious in how they use meetings, arranging them when everyone has enough information to create a meaningful discussion. 

The problem many HR departments have faced is how to replace being able to stop by a colleague’s desk to ask a quick question on an issue. Creating a calendar invite for a catch-up you usually have over a coffee can feel overly formal – instead, try using messaging platforms or ask someone to quickly drop by your video room so you can get their opinion. This circumvents the calendar entirely and will improve the quality of conversation when both parties feel more at ease.

Be clever with how your team works

This one is really important. HR teams should encourage employees to plan time away from video calls during their daily routine. Quick breaks either side of meetings – small activities like refilling a tea or stretching allow workers to pause and refresh. Giving people space to shift between the professional and the personal like this will not only enable them to perceive daily tasks as more manageable, but will concurrently improve their focus and productivity levels

HR teams might want to think about creating a schedule of planned activities which employees can book onto in order to encourage them to take breaks. There are loads of fun tasks you can do together such as playing ‘One word story,’ where staff can take turns to put together a silly story, one word at a time, in a group slack channel. Team yoga, virtual happy hour or mindfulness sessions are also great alternatives. 

One of the great advantages of working at home is the additional time for friends and family. In theory, there should be an even work life balance – but it’s easy to lose track of time spent working and many people inadvertently are ‘online’ longer than they would be in the office. It’s also important not to skip physical exercise, especially when most of us sit sedentary at a desk for the majority of the day. 

Maintain the social element

From an HR-perspective, one of the things employees are most likely to miss about remote working is the feeling of closeness with their colleagues. Remote working does not mean this is lost – you can still work with your colleagues despite not being in the same physical room as each other. For example, you can end the week with ‘Friday Friyay’, a 30 minute social hangout where you can discuss “the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on the underground.”

It’s also important everyone has the sense of an open forum. Our support team has maintained this through their monthly “Power Hours” where they put on a playlist which they’ve compiled together and go through queries – just like they would if they were sitting in the same office. Allocating time for these get-togethers really helps to maintain the close bonds you find within small teams. 

Don’t multitask – it’s counterproductive

When in an in-person meeting, you wouldn’t dream of trying to complete other work at the same time. It’s imperative we apply this to video meetings. It can be easy to absent-mindedly check emails or edit work while on a call, but emphasise the importance to your teammates of not doing this. Research* shows that attempting multiple tasks simultaneously can cost up to 40% of productive time in the long run. So, when in a video meeting, give it your undivided attention. Close any browser tabs which might tempt your attention and wait to reply to messages until you’ve logged out of the meetings – your responses will be far better when you are not half-listening to a video call.

*https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xhp274763.pdf