Any other tips for creating a healthier workplace in the long term?
By becoming an even healthier place to work than before the COVID-19 pandemic, your organisation can maximise the benefits of a healthy workforce. One of the things you should try to mitigate is the long-term health consequences of remote working, which entails being in front of a computer screen for long stretches of time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many London boroughs provided support for more ergonomic working conditions at home (e.g. giving staff money to purchase office chairs or even shipping chairs from near-empty council offices to employees’ homes).
Another response to staff being stuck in online meetings all day was that managers advised them to take screen breaks or, in some cases, imposed ‘no meeting days’. Best practice is still not clear, however, and boroughs will have to consider what they need to provide at employees’ homes to ensure they are helping staff work healthily both at home and in the office.
New and emerging ideas for designing a healthy workplace include:
- Brain health is emerging as a field that organisations should take seriously. We all do intellectual tasks for much of our job but, in many cases, COVID-19 has affected our mental wellbeing and diminished how well we do these tasks. Boroughs should be aware of pioneering pilots in this area. For example, an EU-funded project called Sustainable Brain Health built a Brain Health Barometer to measure and improve individuals’ brain health within organisations. Some particular initiatives that boroughs might also think about include organisation-wide days off for mental health breaks, innovative ideas like rewarding your staff for sleeping or one of the many suggestions in the mental health charity Mind’s guides for improving mental wellbeing in organisations.
- Incentivising healthy behaviour using behavioural insights is another innovative angle. The Behavioural Insights Team published a report in 2019 that explained how its EAST framework could help create a healthier work environment. One particularly interesting approach for local government might be creating opportunities for employees to participate in decision-making. For example, studies show that when employees sit on safety committees, it leads to safer and healthier outcomes. It would therefore be sensible to consider integrating health and wellbeing into a Future of Work programme – just as Barnet Council has done – to ensure that staff can have a say in what this looks like in the long term too.