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Portugal has introduced new rules aimed at protecting the wellbeing of remote workers. Gosia Bowling looks at what organisations in the UK might consider implementing in order to support those continuing to work from home.
Last week, the Portuguese government announced new measures to improve work-life balance for its people. With a rise in remote working post-pandemic taking its toll on the mental health of overworked and burnt-out employees, Portugal has rolled out new rules. These include fines for employers who contact employees outside of their office hours and obliging businesses to help pay for additional remote working expenses, like increasing home utility costs.
How can UK employers follow suit and play their role in supporting the emotional wellbeing of the remote workforce?
Remote working can often cause working from home "guilt", with employees increasing their working hours to compensate for the "benefit" of home working. Individuals feel they are expected to be "always on", and as a result, work additional hours and feel inclined to check their emails into the evening.
Managers have a responsibility to outline remote working expectations clearly to ease these worries. They should let individuals know they aren’t expected to work longer hours just because they’re not commuting.
However, some industries may require employees to occasionally be "on-call". In this case, more specific policies around answering out-of-hours emails may be required, customised to the type of work each team carries out. For example, employers may discourage sending emails at weekends and outline clear guidelines on what constitutes an emergency and requires an immediate response.
Remote working can provide key emotional wellbeing benefits, for example allowing employees to spend more time with family or exercising in daylight hours. As individuals adopt flexible working patterns that suit them – for example working into the evening to accommodate the morning school run – team leaders should reiterate that employees shouldn’t feel pressured to reply to emails out of their individual hours and encourage them to switch devices off after work.
It’s important to remember, though, that no one wellbeing intervention suits everyone, and support should be tailored to individual staff members. Employers should take the time to make sure flexible arrangements work for the individual.