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March CEO update: working from home

CEO Jane Petit looks at how to combat loneliness when working from home, and how we can support our community during and after the floods.

When working from home isn’t the norm

It now seems inevitable that the UK is going to be facing an escalation of coronavirus. As many other organisations, we are looking at our ability to continue working in a variety of situations, including lack of transport or staff being quarantined. There seems to be a simple solution – keep everyone away from the office and public transport, and work from home.  This would reduce the possibility of being exposed to the flu virus and keep our staff as healthy as possible. We have the systems in place which means we can carry out most of our daily tasks effectively from home. In fact, most of the team do work from home a day or so a week already.

But is it that simple? What if you don’t have a space at home that you can work from easily without the attention of a toddler, overjoyed at having you around unexpectedly? Or maybe someone who doesn’t understand that working from home actually means you are working. My Mum was like that – just couldn’t stop herself putting her head round the door for a chat.

How to combat loneliness

So physically it might not be as easy as it first appears but what about the emotional toll? Hopefully for all of us this change will only be for a short while. But even that could prove stressful for some colleagues, especially those living in more isolated situations. Just last week HR magazine published an article on “How to combat loneliness in remote workers”. For me the real take-homes were “Keeping up the communications” and “Tackling the stigma around loneliness”.

So how will we tackle this potential problem, if only in the short term? Well, part of our plan is to use video/tele conferencing not only to run meetings but also to help replicate the face to face time we normally have when we sit down at lunch together and just chat about anything and everything. It’s just a 10-15 minute catch up to check we are all okay as people rather than as co-workers.

I also need to make sure that we all know it’s okay to use our phones and emails to carry on the water cooler conversations about what we did at the weekend or what happened when you took the cat to the vets? It’s about keeping the connections going and letting people know that if they feel lonely or isolated then we can reach out to the team. According to the Red Cross research over 9 million people in the UK feel lonely and we can all do something to help with that. Oh and when we do all come back together, we’ll arrange a team activity to re-establish our work relationships. Maybe this time I’ll win at Crazy Golf!

Supporting people through the floods

It’s been a really tough year for many communities in Britain. As January arrived, so did Storm Brendan, then Ciara, Dennis and now Jorge. We have been trying to get the word out to IET members and their families that we have grants available to help you cope in the immediate aftermath of the storms and flooding.

Maybe you need help with the costs of temporary accommodation? Or help with transport costs if you’re staying with relatives but still need to get to work? Or maybe some support to cope with the emotional costs of your experience.

Although we have been sending out the message via our social media channels, we realise that many people in the immediate aftermath of such events don’t have access to their normal communication channels. So if you have a friend or a colleague who has been caught up in these difficult times, please let them know we are here to support them by encouraging them to fill out our support enquiry form.

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