Safe at Home: Fight Pandemic Fatigue by Improving Work from Home

Richard Long

The vaccines have arrived but deliverance from COVID-19 is still months in the future. In today’s post, we’ll look at how BCM offices can fight burnout and reduce costly mistakes by leading the way in optimizing the work from home experience for their organizations’ employees.

BCM Offices vs. Pandemic Fatigue

The arrival of vaccines offering protection against COVID-19 is grounds for optimism, but it will take months before they affect the trajectory of the virus. In the meantime, case numbers are rising, the holidays are coming, and people are growing increasingly tired and stressed by the virus’s impact on their lives.

As I discussed in my most recent blog, pandemic fatigue is of concern to BCM professionals because it is likely to lead to more mistakes—mistakes of the kind that can cause harm to their organizations.

For this reason, BCM programs should make it their business to do what they can to reduce pandemic fatigue among their company’s workers.

The Importance of Optimizing Work from Home

One of the best ways of fighting quarantine fatigue is to optimize the work from home experience, since so many employees are now working out of their kitchens and living rooms—and since working from home is associated with some of the sharpest experiences of pandemic fatigue.

BCM professionals should work with the various departments at their organization to encourage them to take steps to improve the work from home experience for their employees.

23 Ways to Improve Work from Home

What specific things can a BCM office promote and advocate for to improve work from home at their organizations, reducing pandemic fatigue, preventing mistakes, and improving resiliency? Here’s a list of 23 ideas, divided into Employee Safety, Work Processes, Staff Communication, Worker Comfort, Competing Obligations, and Personal Care.


    Employee Safety
  1. Employees should be encouraged to lock their doors and not answer during work hours if they’re not expecting visitors.
  2. Employees should have a method to alert their managers and a loved one if something happens at home that threatens their safety.
  3. Managers should provide their staff with training and information on home-safety concepts.
  4. Employees should avoid making posts to social media that indicate they are home alone or will be away for an extended period.

  5. Work Processes
  6. Managers should consider whether, in light of the fact that employees are working from home, it would be advantageous to change the time when meetings are held and deliverables are due.
  7. Managers should define virtual meeting and collaboration etiquette and communicate the proper procedures to their staffs.
  8. Organizations should be as flexible as possible regarding employee work schedules. 
  9. Managers should receive training in how to lead and support their staff in a remote-work context.

    Staff Communication
  10. During work from home, communication between managers and staff should be frequent and transparent.
  11. Consider establishing a virtual “water cooler,” using your organization’s collaboration technology such as Teams or Zoom, where employees can meet informally and talk spontaneously as they would at the office.
  12. Staff should consider setting reminders for themselves to periodically reach out to key colleagues and direct reports, to make up for the informal meetings that would normally happen spontaneously at the office.

    Worker Comfort
  13. Managers should encourage their staff working at home to make their work-from-home environment comfortable in terms of temperature, degree of quiet, background music, houseplants, and so on.
  14. Managers should help ensure employees have a work surface of the proper height and sufficient area as well as an ergonomic chair, suitable computer, ergonomic keyboard and mouse, the necessary supplies, a soft but not dim light, and a source of natural light, which is important for health and well-being.
  15. Employees should be encouraged to make their work from home space a room with a door so they can get away from others who are in the home.
  16. Employees should be encouraged to identify a “break room” where they can go to leave their work behind and relax.

    Competing Obligations
  17. Managers should recognize that employees working at home face competing obligations and adopt a flexible, supportive attitude as they strive to meet them.
  18. Employees should be encouraged to create a structure around their working from home to protect their space and attention from interruptions by other people in the household.
  19. Employees should consider doing some or all of the following for the other people in their home: establishing ground rules for interruptions, posting a work schedule, posting signs indicating when they are on a call or cannot be disturbed, and encouraging family members to send them texts or emails expressing their needs rather than knocking or interrupting.
  20. Employees should be encouraged to set and adhere to a routine in terms of getting ready for the day, “being at work,” and having lunch and breaks.
  21. Employees should define separate spaces for their work and their children’s school, if they have children at home. This may require using one space for multiple purposes, but consider a unique set up for each type of use.

    Personal Care
  22. Managers should recognize that the health of the company depends on the well-being of its employees.
  23. Employees should remove work materials from family areas outside of work hours to facilitate separation and relaxation from work.
  24. Employees should be encouraged to take care of themselves, including by eating well, getting sufficient exercise, and taking time for their outside interests.

That makes 23 ideas that your BCM office can encourage your organization to implement that would optimize the work from home experience for your employees, thus reducing pandemic and quarantine burnout, preventing mistakes, and making your organization more resilient.

Taking an Active Role in Improving Work from Home

Despite the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines, work from home will be with us for the foreseeable future. Because pandemic burnout and fatigue over working from home can lead to human error and negative impacts for the company, BCM offices should take an active role in optimizing work from home at their organizations. They can do this by encouraging the other departments to implement the tips and recommendations outlined above.

Further Reading

For more information on improving work from home, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS:

About
Richard Long is one of MHA’s practice team leaders for Technology and Disaster Recovery related engagements. He has been responsible for the successful execution of MHA business continuity and disaster recovery engagements in industries such as Energy & Utilities, Government Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Risk Management, Travel & Entertainment, Consumer Products, and Education. Prior to joining MHA, Richard held Senior IT Director positions at PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT) and has been a senior leader across all disciplines of IT. He has successfully led international and domestic disaster recovery, technology assessment, crisis management and risk mitigation engagements.
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