How employers and managers can reduce the risk of an always-on work environment

Posted: 24th July 2023

Over the past few years, the way we work has changed, with many Brits now working in remote or hybrid roles.

What’s more, employees can now make calls and access messages, emails, and files wherever they are, including outside of working hours.

While this may be more convenient at times, the ability and often expectation for employees to be always-on and contactable can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being.

In fact, according to research by Benenden Health, 58% of employees think work has negatively impacted their mental well-being. Another recent study revealed that those who experience high levels of workplace digital stress are also likely to experience poor recovery, higher levels of burnout, and poor work-life balance.

To help employers and managers navigate the pressure that employees are facing, Benenden Health has shared guidance for reducing the risks of an always-on work environment.

1. Establish reasonable communication expectations 

Many workers like to send emails outside of working hours, perhaps because it’s the only time they have in their day to do so, or they feel more productive either first thing in the morning or in the evening.

While this may work well for those individuals, it is important that others on their team know that they don’t have to do the same, and that emails do not require a response on the day they are sent. Managers should communicate clear and consistent expectations of the time frame within which emails should be responded to, being mindful that this should be realistic and based on working hours.

For those who tend to send emails before or after their ‘official’ working hours, it can be helpful to include a line in the signature of your email stipulating that you do not expect a response outside of normal office hours.

2. Encourage employees to take breaks 

When work is particularly busy, or if your team has just experienced a stressful period, then it can be easy to forget to take breaks – or feel guilty for doing so.

Whether employees are in the office or working from home, encourage them to take regular breaks away from their computer screens. This could be as simple as ensuring they are leaving their desks during their lunch breaks, getting up to speak to colleagues rather than emailing, or popping outside for some fresh air.

Studies have also shown that those who exercise more often are likely to be more productive and higher achievers than those who rarely exercise. To help your team prioritise their physical and mental health, consider facilitating exercise during the working day, for example with a morning yoga session or lunchtime running club.

3. Set an example of clear boundaries 

Boundaries in the workplace are important and with the growing discourse of ‘quiet quitting’ and burnout, they are crucial to supporting employee’s well-being.

As a manager or employer, lead by example when it comes to establishing your boundaries. This might include:

  • That you have set times during the day to check emails to avoid it being a constant distraction
  • That you avoid booking regular meetings over lunch times where possible
  • That you can take personal appointments during the day
  • That you allocate an hour each day for focused work

Take time to speak to your employees or the people you line manage about what boundaries are important to them, and that will help them to be more productive and maintain a work-life balance.

4. Develop mental health support systems

As many as 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue in a year. It is, therefore, essential that employers provide adequate mental health support for their workers.

Examples of this include offering mental health training to line managers and providing employees access to a mental health helpline with qualified therapists. Similarly, you could introduce regular mental health days, for people to take the day away from work and focus on their wellbeing.

Another great way to provide a sense of togetherness and fulfilment for your employees, while also giving back to your local or wider community, is to introduce team volunteering days and programmes.

Different people will want access to, or respond best to, different types of support. By introducing a range of accessible mental health policies, you will be actively demonstrating that mental well-being is a priority to the business.

Source: How employers and managers can reduce the risk of an always-on work environment   – HR News

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