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With government regulations encouraging office-based staff to work from home in efforts to curb the spread of the virus, those who managed to briefly experience office life between spikes in infection, have been forced to re-embrace working from home life once again.
With covid safety the 'obvious' priority for many employers, how well are the employees forced to work remotely coping with the changes mentally?
In October 2020, a survey of nearly 250 randstad.co.uk visitors revealed that a quarter stated that their mental health was better working from home. Fast forward three months, this figure has now climbed to a third. 33% of respondents asked the same question in January 2021 admitted that their mental wellbeing is better working from home.
The home-based or remote setup that more than ever are embracing, and even one in four may be subject to on a permanent basis boasts fewer distractions, less commuting, a better work/life balance and numerous cost savings for both the employer and worker. It’s not for everyone however.
- Top tips for managing mental health while WFH:
are employees missing a sense of normality?
Being away from the hustle and bustle of the working environment isn’t everybody's preference, the January 2021 survey also discovered that one in five feel that their mental wellbeing is for the better when they are office based.
While some are excited to get back to their place of work, waiting to return to previous life routines, others are experiencing a fear of contracting the virus, career uncertainty, a long uncomfortable commute, unwanted interactions with certain colleagues, or a sadness about the loss of things gained during lockdown or working from home life.
With the pandemic causing obvious disruption to the working lives of the majority, feelings of uncertainty are not unjustified. Some of our previous research revealed that more than half of UK workers fear they could lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19.
what do employees prefer?
It’s no secret that employees appreciate an employer that allows flexible working options. Randstad’s 2020 employer brand research highlighted that the most attractive nonmonetary benefits desired by employees are centred around flexibility, with flexible working hours and being able to work from home being two of the top three key drivers.
Flexibility has long proven to be a key contributor towards positive mental wellbeing, and this has been reinforced by the recent poll data with more respondents feeling more comfortable at home than in the office.
what benefits should be a priority?
While the majority of respondents (47%) state that their mental wellbeing is unaffected by if they are working remotely or from the office, employers can also find peace of mind with regards to productivity. Research carried out by Finder.com revealed that 83% of employees feel they do not need an office to be productive. Additional research also found that remote workers are not only happier, but are also healthier than their office based counterparts, taking an average of 2.4 sick days a year as opposed to the 2.6 days taken by office based employees.
While office safety is front of mind for many employers to ensure compliance of new government guidelines, the remote workforce must not be overlooked. Now would be a good time to work with home workers to tailor a self-assessment to reflect the specific needs and hazards of their work - an unsuitable home working environment or uncomfortable setup might be contributing to poor mental health.
Human interaction can of course never be replaced by technology alone. Not being in the same office physically means that managers don’t have visibility of body language or tone to get the sense of what employees are thinking or feeling, particularly in more difficult conversations. It’s important to home in on what’s not being said and ask questions. People can be more sensitive if they’re feeling isolated or anxious, so take this into account in all forms of communication.