Look after yourself and your work environment at home
With many people now spending their entire working day working at home, it is important to minimise new work environment problems that may arise. Your employer is responsible for your work environment even at home, but in the current circumstances, employees and managers need to help one another deal with the situation.
As many employees’ work environment has now moved home, it may be a good idea to give some consideration to both the physical and the social work environment.
We talked to Anna Maria Näslund, work environment engineer at the Buildings Division, and Karin Karlström, human resources strategist at the Human Resources Division, for advice about how to deal with the situation. They both emphasise that now that the job has moved home, it becomes even more important for managers to check how members of staff are getting on. At the same time, we have to have reasonable expectations about what can be done and how these contacts can be managed. Perhaps delegation is an option, or checking in with a group of staff.
“You also have a responsibility as an employee to speak up if anything is unsatisfactory. In this situation, both sides need to be pragmatic and creative to solve the issue of the work environment and the new social situation,” says Karlström.
Variation and rest
“It’s important to vary your working position – try to stand if possible, sit in the sofa, put your feet up,” says Näslund. If you have an adjustable chair, of course you should use it, but otherwise perhaps you can put a cushion on the chair if it is too low relative to the table.”
Adapt your chair
Another of Näslund’s tips is to arrange a towel or a cushion in the lumbar region to provide support to the lower back.
“You can also sit far forward on a normal chair, that will put you in the ‘saddle sitting’ position. All kinds of variation are important to avoid being static,” says Näslund. “You have to get your circulation going. Take breaks, stand up every half hour and walk around for a bit, stretch and move your arms. You can set the clock to remind you to move and that you need to change position.”
Perhaps you could organise a work station where you could stand at a tall chest of drawers or some similar piece of furniture.
Keyboard and books for your computer
If you work on a laptop without an external monitor, it’s important to try to avoid leaning over in the way that happens because the screen is too low down when it is attached to the keyboard. Support for the lower arms is important to relax your neck and shoulders, and it is important that the top of the screen is at eye level to avoid a static downward looking posture.
“If you don’t have an external monitor, you could place the computer up on a pile of books and use an external keyboard,” says Näslund.
Lighting is another important factor in the physical work environment.
“If the sun is shining on the screen or if you are dazzled, you need to move. But it’s easy to gradually adapt to the changing angle of the sun. You have to take responsibility for yourself and adapt to the conditions where you are working,” Näslund says.
Make the most of computer settings
Näslund also reminds us of the possibility of changing the size of the text on the screen to suit you. Also, the possibility of increasing and reducing the brightness of the screen.
“And try to discuss your physical work environment at home with your manager and see whether it’s possible to take home accessories like a keyboard or a monitor,” Näslund advises.
Karin Karlström stresses the importance of maintaining your routines.
“For example, I get up at the same time, and start and finish work at the same time as I did before the pandemic. I try to stick to my working day, with coffee breaks and lunch. Of course everyone’s different and some people like to start earlier or later, but I think the vast majority benefit from keeping up their routines as well as they can and setting limits to the working day. Draw a line at the end of the working day, for example by putting your working things away – so that you come home, as it were, after work and don’t not have your job out in the open in the evening.”
Stock up on daylight
Both Näslund and Karlström emphasise the importance of getting out in daylight and remind us about the wellness hour.
“Naturally, this is equally important whether you’re working at home or at the workplace,” Näslund observes.
“If you live near a colleague, perhaps you could book a walk to combine exercise and social contact,” Karlström suggests.
Normalise your anxiety
We all react differently to this situation. Some people are not particularly worried. Others experience severe anxiety – they may belong to an at-risk group or have a close relative who does.
“As manager, I have to bear in mind that we react differently, and therefore also deal with the situation differently. That needs to be taken into account. If you are worried, you should talk with your manager. If the anxiety becomes too severe, it can affect your ability to work and you may need help to deal with it. Besides having a dialogue with your manager, you can also talk with the occupational health service online or by telephone.”
All employees are allowed to make two appointments per year to talk with a psychologist or behavioural scientist, on their own initiative, without consulting their manager.
“If you feel severe anxiety, it can be a good idea to limit your news flow at the moment, when the flood of information is so enormous. Decide to follow reliable sources of information, you don’t need to read everything. We people have a tendency to look for information that feeds our anxiety.”
Combating social isolation
“I believe one of the major effects we will see if this carries on for a long time is social isolation,” says Karlström. “We’re social beings, after all, and some will cope with this change well, they have activities they can continue with, family to be with. But this is going to affect some people badly. For example, people who live on their own and who, for one reason or another, are unable to compensate with social contacts outside of work.
“We need to help one another find digital solutions to overcome social isolation. Book meetings in addition to purely formal meetings via telephone and Zoom to chat about how you’re doing and how things are working out. Preferably regular meetings at set times.”
It’s also important for members of staff and managers alike to think about whether any particular group is especially affected by this situation, apart from the defined groups at risk.
“Examples might be staff from other countries who perhaps don’t understand Swedish and who find it more difficult to obtain information about what’s going on, or else members of staff who live on their own, or perhaps people who have recently moved here. They risk feeling even more isolated, of course,” Karlström says.
Previa - Uppsala University’s occupational health service, under Booking you will find links for making online or telephone appointments.