People at work in the second wave of the Corona pandemic

by Adile Yasar & Beate Muschalla, Technische Universität Braunschweig

With the arrival of winter, the second wave Covid-19 pandemic causes again a current danger to the European society and human working and social lives. To reduce the spread of Covid-19, governments introduced again stay-at-home-orders. Therefore, working from home has become the new alternative working model. And many employees seem to enjoy the new working reality.

Working from home: advantages and challenges

A survey in raised during second wave of the pandemic shows that the majority of the employees do not prefer to go back to full-time in-office work. Many respondents favor a balanced combination of working from home and in-office work. Employees describe the gain of time due to the elimination of the daily commute as a big advantage. Respondents that got back to workplace after home office periods said they are less productive and more emotionally exhausted.

But there is also potential for improvement: Study participants reported that employers could do more to involve, train and support the staff during the home office periods. Also being away from workplace and colleagues for a long time can cause feelings of loneliness and enhances stress that is related to overtime hours, long working periods and difficulties to switch off. Especially social interactions and relations at work are important resources because they have a positive influence on the psychological well-being and creativity of the staff.

How leaders can support workers during home office

Leaders can use different strategies to promote healthy work environments despite of the difficulties faced by home office. Leaders can for example initiate regular team meetings for professional and collegial support but also for informal issues to enhance the communication and trust between the employees. But also, introducing explicit divisions of responsibility, giving constantly feedback and strengthening the transparency increases trust within the team. Team members should also agree on general communication rules such as establishing deadlines for e-mail responses in the daily communication traffic.

But there are also promising interventions directed to the individual’s well-being that can have a positive influence on the work dynamic during working from home: implementing physical activities like workouts can reduce stress. Leaders can also sensitize their employees to mental health issues and preventive behavior such as proactively structuring the daily life.

A new working model with challenges

Other than expected the productivity of employees in home office doesn’t suffer. But it has also new challenges for leaders and employees. Communication, a clear division of work, and transparency are resources needed to maintain a good working atmosphere.