The shift to home and hybrid working in the wake of COVID-19 has impacted employees in numerous ways, both negative and positive. On the one hand, many are pleased to be able to substitute their congested morning commutes for an exercise session and a healthy breakfast before sitting down for the day, while also spending more time with family members and partners.
But there is also evidence to suggest that the mental health of many employees has suffered. A recent survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with Linkedin has found that of over 2000 respondents, 54 percent felt more anxious and stressed while working from home, and 39 percent struggled to focus. Additionally, respondents were working on average an extra 28 hours a month longer than usual, adding to the burden.
Given that working from home clearly contributes to a deterioration in mental health in some, it is vital that businesses actively explore new ways to support and prioritise the wellbeing of their employees during lockdowns.
To examine this issue more closely, Mike Lyons, Director for PageGroup Midlands, recently hosted a podcast with guest speaker Sheri Hughes, the UK Director of Diversity and Inclusion at PageGroup. Mike kicked off the session with an overview of the perceived pros and cons of remote working, after which Sheri discussed the most effective ways to manage your own mental health and support that of your colleagues.
What can employers do?
One of the most helpful things companies can do in these unprecedented times is to enable a culture of openness around mental health, so that workers feel able to discuss the issue with their colleagues and managers. Sheri emphasises that kindness, empathy, and ultimately a human approach, are key to facilitating such a culture. After all, employees are working in very diverse circumstances and conditions. Some will have found a sweet spot with a home working set up that works well for them, and a relationship with their partners or cohabitants which contributes to a good work-life balance. It is equally possible, however, that an employee will be using a suboptimal workspace at home, or facing any number of other personal issues which could to impede upon their professional life while they work remotely.
“Not everything works for everyone all of the time; you need to give people their different avenues and different outlets”
– Sheri Hughes, UK Director of Diversity and Inclusion, PageGroup
Managers should refrain from making assumptions about the contexts of their staff, as the pandemic has placed everyone in an unexpected situation. By ensuring that its interactions with staff reflect this, a company will also place itself in a stronger position by reducing the likelihood of staff losses and avoiding the necessity of a remotely managed recruitment drive under duress.
Top tips for mental health and wellbeing
Sheri also revealed some of the best steps we can personally take to safeguard our mental health while working from home. Having a consistent routine, for instance, is an indispensable element of wellbeing and selfcare, as it will provide shape to your day and therefore your work life. Allotting time to important tasks enables you to prioritise the elements of your day that you know are important to you, whether these be activities with family and friends, exercise, or anything else that contributes to your wellbeing. Other considerations commonly considered parts of a healthy lifestyle become especially important when working from home. Good nutrition, regular sleeping patterns, and regular social contact are always advisable - even more so when the imposed structure of office life disappears.
The mental health of employees should be a top concern for all companies, as lockdowns and remote working remain the norm. In our on-demand webinar, Mike and Sheri share invaluable tips to help you maintain a thriving organisation of remote workers, and answer some of the biggest questions business leaders have about this essential topic. Sign up below for complimentary access.