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Is working from home over the holidays the ‘new normal’?

Is working from home during the holidays ok
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Throughout 2020, employees” home and work lives have blurred together to an unprecedented extent. Both work- and non-work-related stresses have been heightened for months on end. In fact,£40% of UK employees said they struggle to unplug after work hours when?working“from home.

The impact of Covid-19 shows how essential it is for employees to get a proper break as this year draws to a close.

During the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, research collated by Instant Offices shows 60% of UK employees worked from home. According to a Finder report, 26% of workers say they plan to continue working remotely after lockdown.

A Remote.co survey of full-time remote workers revealed that switching off is the biggest challenge for these employees. In fact, 40% of remote employees said they struggle to unplug after work hours. Other major challenges included non-work distractions (32%), loneliness (23%) and resolving technical issues (21%).

Working parents have reported a similar trend, and more than half of them say overworking has caused a strain in their relationships. The latest Modern Families Index reveals the following stats:

  • 48% say working from home has increased the hours they work
  • 47% say the boundaries between work and home have become blurred thanks to technology
  • 44% check their emails or do other work in the evenings
  • 57% say that staying in ?work mode has caused arguments with their partner
  • 54% say that being unable to switch off has caused arguments with their children

Virtual presenteeism and guilt

Presenteeism was the bane of office life pre-pandemic. Now virtual presenteeism is just bad news for productivity and wellbeing, and is on the rise with people working from home.

46% of Brits said they are feeling more pressure to be available to their bosses and colleagues, and 35% admitted to putting in a day’s work while feeling ill.

Remote workers who have been working while ill cited the following reasons:

  • 40% felt they ?weren?t sick enough” to take a day off
  • 26% say their workload is too large to take time off
  • 16% say they are afraid of being made redundant during these uncertain times

Switching off when needed

Having spent the past nine months living and working in our?homes, this festive season might be a difficult time to switch off. A lot of people have described 2020 as ‘living at?work’ so let’s address this challenge specifically, as it is going to take some more significant steps than usual to disengage from?work,” says Stuart Duff, head of development at workplace psychology consultancy, Pearn Kandola ahead of the holidays.

How to unplug and enjoy your time off

  1. Set clear boundaries and communicate them. This includes booking leave well in advance and notifying the people you work closely with, who are most likely to be affected. Set your out of office to tell people categorically that you are taking a break over the festive period and that you will not be reading their email, even when you return to work. So, if it is urgent, they should contact you again after your date of return.
  2. Clear the house of visual signs of work. Tidy up or shred any papers or notes around the house, completely clear any desk or table space you use, put your laptop into a drawer and lock it up.
  3. Delete your?workemail app from your phone. After all, this is the thing you will be looking at every few minutes during your break. So, unless you remove the email app, you’re always going to be lured back in. “Just seeing your email account and that lovely red number increasing will drive you spare, so go on: remove all temptation,” adds Duff.
  4. Don?t make assumptions. Achieving a great work-life balance for remote employees requires flawless communication. Instead of assuming that your boss and colleagues expect you to be available while on leave, talk to them beforehand about their expectations around your availability and response times.
  5. Physically unplug. It helps to literally unplug and disengage from the technology that keeps us so busy. Switch off your laptop and disable email notifications on your phone. Online work from home setups should be packed away or moved out of your living area during this time to distinguish between “home and “holiday?.
  6. Plan ahead. Working from home stress is often the same as if you were in the office. If you’re worried about returning to a mountain of emails after your holiday, put a plan in place that will help you prioritise your responses once you’re back at work.

A business psychologist’s take

Business Psychologist, Dannielle Haig, coaches some of the principal business minds in the UK and has seen first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on our working life and more importantly our mental health. For many of us,?Christmasis going to be a welcome break from what has undoubtedly been a tough year, but the build-up and planning can add a huge amount of additional stress.

Due to the impact of the pandemic many will also have financial and even health concerns. On top of all this we have tier confusion, social segregation and separation to add into the mix.

Holiday season traditionally means a lot of social interactions especially with work colleagues and without the festive drinks and daily workplace interactions many employees will feel an increased sense of loneliness this year.

Below, Dannielle Haig shares how to make the most of the festive period this year:

Keep your routines: “Routines and rituals help hugely with improving mental health; keeping consistent patterns can give our days and weeks purpose,” she says. “They help to give us a sense of control when we otherwise feel helpless. Start with a simple morning and evening routine and then keep adding, perhaps a set lunchtime and a walk, an hour of reading in the evening etc.”

Purchase pressure: Don?t give in to the pressure to purchase. “I think we ve all realised this year that it’s not things that make us happy and even though it has been a difficult year there’s no need to overcompensate with presents and cause financial stress for yourself. No one who cares for you will want you overspending.”

Connections: Remember to reach out to one another. “With the Tier system in place, it might be difficult to see loved ones over Christmas, which I know can be upsetting. Make sure you keep regular scheduled contact with loved ones; even a phone call or Zoom can lift your spirits and keep your connectivity fuelled.”

Charity: This definitely starts at home however, helping others is a great way to lift yours spirits and help remind us of the importance of kindness which is easy to forget?during uncertain times. “Perhaps giving a few hours a week to talk on the phone, help the homeless or even someone who is lonely and isolated.”

Have fun: It has been a tough year so try to embrace the festive season, even with all the restrictions in place, and enjoy time off work. “Try and be grateful for all that you have instead of focussing on what you lack. Appreciate all that is good in your life and be thankful.”

These tips work just as well for the weekends, helping work-from-home weary workers reclaim a semblance of personal boundaries.

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