Beth Hampson
Beth Hampson

Member Article

Locked down & locked out: how to beat the January blues whilst away from the office

This week, the nation experienced ‘Blue Monday’ (18th January), which is often seen as a low point in the working calendar with shorter daylight hours, post-Christmas purses feeling the pinch and New Year’s resolutions already broken. But this year, throw a third national lockdown into the mix and workforces again missing offices, colleagues, and calm productivity, it is time for employers to reconsider their typical wellbeing packages to help beat the January blues.

Leaders of commerce have, for many years, begun to realise the importance of looking after a workforce: Paul Drechsler, Chairman of leading construction company Wates, said “good health IS good business”, whilst the MD of Boots (the major UK pharmacy and beauty retailer) announced it is “embedding health and well-being at the very heart of [its] business strategy”. But this year more than ever, it is vital that businesses ensure workplace wellbeing does not take a back seat.

After a year of such significant change in the world of work, helping your team keep the working from home blues at bay means not compromising on any of the perks that typical office life allows, from quality time with your team to practical support.

Priortise quality time

According to Cushman & Wakefeld’s recent report ‘Workplace Ecosystems of the Future’, the experience of remote working during the pandemic has left half of employees struggling to feel connected to colleagues.

This is a sentiment that we saw reflected amongst our members during the summer and autumn months of 2020, as city workers regrouped using flexible workspace products like day offices, coworking spaces or meeting rooms. The overwhelming feedback that they shared with us was that seeing their team in-person provided a much-needed boost to both their productivity and wellbeing, and how much they had missed the buzz of city life.

Of course, in lockdown, such meeting spaces may not be an option yet. However, bringing the hubbub of office social life into the home doesn’t have to mean yet another dreaded Zoom quiz, but instead could take the form of wellness packages that offer teammates the chance to come together whilst also prioritising their mental health. For instance, we recently launched virtual yoga, Pilates and flow classes to ensure workplace wellness doesn’t slip down the agenda simply because we are working from home.

Keeping office culture alive and well during lockdown is achievable and, with the vaccine programme gaining momentum, the chance to begin bringing teams together by using coworking products to keep morale high may not be that far away. Now is not the time to let team spirits suffer.

Create a green home office

Recreating the corporate calm and productivity of the office within the home environment is also key. From the right lighting to calming sounds, spending a little time redesigning home working spaces – however small the tweaks may be – can be invaluable in boosting productivity.

For instance, ‘biophilic design’ (the popular workspace trend of increasing wellbeing through exposure to nature) is increasingly finding its way into workplace culture. A recent study showed that ‘green’ offices made staff 15% more productive than those without greenery, which is why we have plants across many of our central London workspaces. Studies have even found that simple images of nature, or the sound of running water, can have significant positive effects on productivity. Suggesting these tips to your team, and helping them organise their lockdown home office, could go a long way in ensuring they remain productive and happy in the weeks ahead.

Offer practical help

The home working experience is different for everyone; from working parents juggling home-schooling and the ‘day job’, to those simple yet highly frustrating at-home IT issues. Tailoring support to the different needs of your employees is vital.

Ask what you can do for those who may find remote working more challenging this time around. This could mean supplying on-hand IT services to help log-in problems, WiFi outages or laptop glitches, or even negotiating flexible working hours for those balancing full-time work with childcare. Being open to these kinds of conversations and solutions may prove critical in 2021. Employees will increasingly – and justifiably – expect more support from their employers, and this kind of practical help will also ensure that teams can easily transition back into the office later this year.

For now, we must learn the lessons of the last lockdown and ensure that employees receive the same, or an even greater, level of wellbeing support as they would in the office. Ultimately, investing in wellness now means that workers remain motivated and engaged and, when the time comes, will be primed for an effective return to the physical workplace.

By Beth Hampson, Commercial Director, The Argyll Club

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Beth Hampson .

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