While many employers have embraced the benefits of agile working, few have experienced an entirely remote workforce. The same is true for most employees too who may be used to short stints at home but are wholly unaccustomed to extended, unbroken periods of remote working. Covid-19 is changing the situation for many companies, forcing workers into potentially prolonged periods of isolation.

The potential impact on mental health is significant, but there are steps that both employers and employees can take to minimise its effects.

For Employers, QBE have highlighted the following areas of focus:

Regular communication is key

Employees perform better when they are engaged and motivated. Places of work tend to be stimulating, with lots going on. When working remotely, communication can often feel less frequent and the home environment less invigorating. It is advisable therefore for employers to increase formal and informal communication.

Communication methods should be mixed up – a video or telephone call is more interactive than an email and helps break up the monotony of working from an inbox. Video calls also allow the opportunity for face to face interaction and enable teams to talk collectively. Using instant messaging platforms can help change the tone and tempo of responses and may be a more favoured communication medium for some.

Teamwork keeps people engaged

It’s worth considering whether some tasks should be completed as a team instead of individually. Collective team participation helps team cohesion and keeps people engaged. The benefits of teams working collectively will likely outweigh any short-term negative effects of increased task completion time. Just because employees are working from home does not mean they have to feel like lone workers.

Technology and IT equipment

Employers must consider that IT equipment may limit productivity in some way e.g. home broadband may be slower and laptops with small screens can be a challenge for those used to working on large or multiple monitors.

Mental health and wellbeing take priority

For some employees remote working might be more challenging. During a period of transition, it is good practice to check in with employees regularly to see how they are feeling and coping. For some companies this may already be part of their culture and working practice but for others, it may require a change in approach which may initially be met with scepticism and suspicion by employees.

Employers should remind employees of mental health services available to them and, if possible, re-run any mental health, wellbeing and resilience training courses. It is also important to remind employees that it’s acceptable and encouraged to report problems, this should be reinforced regularly by people leaders. Some Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPS’s) offer proactive counselling, should it be required.


For Employees, QBE have highlighted the following areas of focus:

When used to the hustle and bustle of the work environment, extended remote working may come as a real shock to the system for employees, particularly those who live somewhat isolated lives outside of the workplace already. It is critical that workers continue to feel connected to colleagues and exercise the right discipline at home. They should:

Stick to normal working hours

Without the structure of commuting to and from the workplace, the working day can creep, with no clear ‘clocking off’ point at the end of the day. The result is employees never really switch off and risk burning out quickly.

Take regular breaks

Employees need to be disciplined also around taking breaks, whether it is as simple as going to get a drink or stepping outside to get some fresh air. According to Government guidelines, even those who are self-isolating should take regular exercise outside, just ensuring they avoid crowded places and keep a good distance between themselves and others.

Regular breaks are particularly important from an ergonomic perspective also. Typically, home desks are less adaptable than office desks and unlikely to have been assessed by postural experts. Movement and light stretching every 30 minutes is recommended.

Eat healthily

Maintain a healthy diet to avoid the sluggish feeling of being at home. Constant grazing can often be a downside of remote working. If it is a difficult habit to break, at least try to keep snacks healthy.

Keep in touch

One of the ways to combat loneliness during prolonged isolation is to set up regular video calls with teammates. If employees are struggling at home either mentally or physically, they should let their colleagues, line manager or mental health first aider know at the earliest opportunity.

Source: QBE