Has the COVID19 changed your working routine and how can SmartWork support you in monitoring your health and wellbeing? – SmartWork asks older office workers

While the work on the prototype of SmartWork platform continues and summer season hits Europe, SmartWork talks with the four representatives of its target group – older workers – about their health and wellbeing related to the telecommuting during the times of pandemic. We are interested to know how working from home has affected their physical and mental health and if the digital solutions like SmartWork can practically support the older office workers in situations like the one with COVID19 now and in the future.

According to the study by European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), overall 37 percent of those currently working in the EU began to telework as a result of the pandemic. In some countries the percentage is even above 50%. Most of the workers are generally happy with the switch and plan to continue the telecommuting after the COVID19 crisis ends. 

The first person SmartWork talked to is Willeke van Staalduinen (59), who runs her own company AFEdemy.

SW: It seems that your working routine has not changed so much as a result of COVID19. You’ve worked from home or a co-working space for four years now.

WvS: Yes, exactly. I left the big company some years ago and since then I work on my own with a colleague who is based in Spain. Only recently I rented a space from an entrepreneur building, where I have a small office. The corona-crisis did not change my work so much, as I was used to working remotely, having meetings online and not seeing my colleagues on a daily basis. The major change is that all face-to-face meetings – partner meetings, focus groups I was supposed to run etc. were cancelled. 

SW: Do you feel that this impacted somehow your wellbeing or your work-life balance?

WvS: No. The only complication is that just after the start of the crisis I broke my ankle, so I was really stuck at home.

SW: What is your recipe for making sure the work does not impact your health and wellbeing when working in solitude?

WvS: I really like working this way. I try to work only during the working hours, not at night. I also listen very carefully to my body, if it’s tired and I need a break. Then I rest or go for a walk. I must admit that now when I am older I recognise those signals better. But I still get surprised at times. When I broke my ankle I thought I would be able work normally, because I have a sitting job and my hands were OK. But I quickly discovered that recovering from this accident took a lot of time and effort. I had to keep the working days shorter. I definitely underestimated the impact of this accident on my body. 

I think if someone suffers from an injury or a disease at an older age, the recovery time is much longer and it should be taken into account by the employee themselves and their employers. Even if at first this might look like something not so serious. 

SW: Do you think that the SmartWork services could help older office workers monitor their health and support them in those kinds of situations?

WvS: Yes, I think the service that monitors if someone gets fatigue is very important, both for the workers and for the employers. For me, my tired eyes are an indicator that I need to take a break. Perhaps the service called healthyMe, which monitors continuously the physiological and behavioural parameters would be helpful here.

SW: What about the workCoach service which supports the older office workers in new skills acquisition and technology acceptance? Is it something that could be useful now, when so many office workers had to adapt to the virtual environment so quickly? 

WsV: Yes, developing new skills is very important in any case. Personally I don’t have a problem with technology, as I’ve worked with digital tools for years. For me they are an aid, an enabler but of course you need a set of the digital literacy skills to benefit from them best. Maybe that’s also something for the workCoach service? People should not be afraid of the new tools and should be curious about learning new things but of course the equipment should also be user friendly!

SW: Do you foresee any changes in your working routine in the near future?

WsV: No. I like it the way it is. Of course I would like the face-to-face meetings to take place again. The uncertainty related to the development of the pandemic is high, though. It also creates a gap between the young and older generations and I think we need to be very careful about not excluding the older people from society, which can happen very easily with the stay-at-home recommendations that depend on age. I see this as a big societal challenge brought by corona. 

Read more about all SmartWork services on smartworkproject.eu/services/