By Jay Ledesma
ALMOST 12 months of the pandemic. Almost 12 months of the work-from-home (WFH) arrangement. Employees who are into this setup are lucky that they get to keep their jobs while millions of Filipinos have lost their jobs amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. They’re even luckier that they don’t have to go out and be exposed to the virus to do their jobs. Unlike our front-liners who have to go out on a daily basis and risk getting the virus in order to perform their jobs.
These workers from home are blessed to have been provided by their companies with the facilities and platforms to do their daily tasks in the comfort of their homes.
Almost 12 months of this arrangement, how are our workers from home?
While most employees have adapted and adjusted to the WFH setup, still we have a big chunk of our workforce who is overwhelmed by this new normal. I hear stories of employees breaking down to tears or being grumpy due to non-stop zoom meetings. Or employees suffering from back pains and migraines also due to virtual meetings one after the other, at times from 7 am to 7 pm. Is it due to pressure or mere fatigue?
For most, the line separating home and work is almost nil.
It is truly understandable why some bosses structure their virtual meetings in a way where “CR break” is the only break! With employees working remotely, away from their watch, t is expected that bosses had to make sure that their employees are really working and productive during their designated office hours. Under the new normal, engaging them in virtual meetings or conference calls is the best way to see and supervise them. In the company of my friend, one of their Key Performance Indicators is the number of hours spent in virtual meetings.
But while the intention is to make employees productive under the WFH setup, bosses and employees themselves have to be mindful that when not managed properly, this can affect the mental health of the employees, which can adversely impact their productivity. Let’s not overwhelm them to the point of counter-productivity.
The bosses and the employees should work hand-in-hand to still create a work-life and a home life balance.
Observe work hours. Personally, I don’t count the work hours I put in a day. The people I worked with know that I usually come to the office very early and leave the office late. But that’s me. While this is my work discipline, I don’t impose this on the people around me. For as long as they render their required work hours, anything beyond is extra from their end. I take note of that and appreciate it. There has to be an important reason why a meeting will be called at 7 am or 12 noon or 7 pm. But this should not be a regular thing. I know of some friends who had to attend regular virtual meetings during lunch or dinner time because this is the available time of the boss. We were not usually doing this when we were still reporting to the office. Only because the virtual meeting is convenient, let’s not overlook the fact that our workers from home also need to have the lunch break and definitely dinner time with their family. Let’s observe and respect each other’s time.
Put a space between meetings. If you are the one setting the meeting, consider putting a space or short break between meetings. This will not only allow you to prepare for your next meeting but will also give you the chance to do some stretching. The few times I join zoom meetings, I already feel the toll on my back after just a few hours. I can just imagine what 8 hours of continuous zoom meetings can do on one’s body. No wonder more are developing disc problems and related headaches. Time management is necessary.
Set up your own work area
To maintain that line between work and home, you need to create that work atmosphere. You don’t need a room for your work area. If you can have one that’s good! But having even that small corner or your own table in your home will do. As you spend most of your waking hours in your work area, it has to be as functional and as comfortable. Invest in the right chair. I know one company that allowed their employees to take home their office ergonomic chairs for their health and comfort.
I also strongly suggest that you dress up as if you’re going to the office. You feel the way you are dressed. Having your own work area and being in your work clothes will allow you to step into your workspace and have that work vibes and mindset. This will also signal to your family members when you’re “in the office” and when you’re not.
Do regular exercise and eat properly
Sitting down for several hours, and not eating regularly and properly because of our online works can be bad for our health. This WFH setup leads to a sedentary lifestyle which has been linked with a risk of heart disease. The son of a friend recently died of a heart attack. He was in his early 30s and had no health problems. His lifestyle changed during the pandemic. His online work required him to work during unholy hours and caused him to miss his regular meal schedules and exercise. One day, he just vomited, rushed to the hospital, and declared dead on arrival.
We need to force ourselves and our employees to still be active and have a good diet. Always have a glass/bottle of water and avoid binge eating. Insert a few stretching during break time.
In one company that I know, they start each day with all employees doing 5-minute exercise via zoom. Before any meeting starts, they require all employees to first attend the virtual exercise class. This is their way to help their employees still keep an active lifestyle.
Spend time for meditation and affirmations. With all the stress and pressures at work and negative news around us, we need to consciously make time to clear our minds from all these toxins. Best to this short meditation at the start of the day or at the end of your work shift to de-clog your minds of work stuff and ready for family time! The company I mentioned above which starts their day with exercise, follows it up with a 5-minute group meditation. They just read one positive quote and ask two employees to share this. Asked why they’re doing it, their manager said “we want our employees to start each day on a positive note because we don’t know what happened the night before.” Makes a lot of sense!
Continue the office fun activities
WFH should not be boring. The Zoom apps should not only be limited to business meetings and learning sessions. It can be a medium for e-ntertainment! I have seen and joined several e-numan, e-kwentuhan, e-showdown, e-games, and e-parties. The creative juices know no pandemic. It almost requires no budget. With all these things happening around us, we need to do more small celebrations, recognize small victories and give lots of encouragement.
With the pandemic still far from being over, WFH is still the name of the game for a big part of our employee force. While employees wait for their turn to receive the vaccines, WFH is still the normal setup for them. While this is such, let’s be mindful that we can make it both a productive and a safer work arrangement for our valued employees.
About the Columnist
Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.