As pioneers in delivering support and guidance on managing mental health in the workplace, we join Jodie Hill from Thrive Law to discuss the challenges of the new, remote first working environment.

Covid-19 has plunged the world into constant uncertainty, and such unprecedented times has caused concerns and anxiety for people across the globe. As we now enter the ‘new normal’, with the guidance to return to work where possible, organisations many will be considering how to make elements of remote working sustainable in the medium and even long term as they adapt to new ways of working and interacting with colleagues. One area that many employers will be particularly considering is mental health; this is huge topic, and the most important thing to consider is that everyone’s circumstances will be different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

Working from home and flexible working has quite rightly been brought to the forefront of all of our minds and forced reluctant employers to at least try.  Some have been surprised at how effective this has actually been in practice and therefore this is a rise in organisations moving towards remote-first working.

However, it’s not perfect for all business and all organisations. It can present different issues as people struggle with a lack of work/life balance, as some employees prefer the separation from work and home life. For example, being able to get in the car and ‘go-to work’, that separation helps them to switch on and off for the day.  Instead of walking downstairs and being at work and the end of the day just closing the laptop. This can cause overworking and feelings of overwhelm. This discomfort from working from home is shared by many.

During the pandemic, some employees did not have a space and the equipment to work form and were working from their bedrooms or shared dining table with many other people making it difficult to focus and be productive.  This leaves the employee with feelings of anxiety that they are not doing enough work.

There’s also the lack of social interaction with colleagues especially in large organisations where reaching out to colleagues or management might be that much harder. It is not surprising that isolation and loneliness have heightened during the pandemic for this reason.

At Thrive Law[1] , as employment law specialists Jodie and the team are on the front line and have seen how a lack of support and communication from management teams and leaders can lead to increased stress if employees do not feel they are getting the right support at home. There are real consequences to working from home if you do not take the right steps, with 82% of remote working professionals said they experienced some kind of burnout while working from home, 52% of remote employees said they ended up working longer hours compared to when they were working in the office, and another 40% said they felt pressured to perform better and contribute more.

However, an employee’s mental health does not have to suffer or decline as long as employers take the right approach.

As an employer or manager, it’s important that you lookout for the wellbeing of your staff and seek ways to improve their remote working experience. This can help them stay productive, healthy to ultimately boost your business.

Here are some practical tips for you to implement;

  • Put things in place for your employee’s wellbeing including mental health assessments and check ins, to ensure there is documented support and guidance provided.
  • Train mental health first aiders for every 10 employees and offer avenues of support like counselling or support phone lines – such as the work Leeds Mind discuss in one of our recent podcasts.
  • Celebrate milestones and awareness days, such as Employee Appreciation Day through events, quizzes and team initiatives.
  • Ensure you are tracking your teams’ workloads to avoid burnout and therefore leading to sickness and an increase in absences. This can be done by effective and regular communication.
  • Find new ways to communicate through accessible channels like WhatsApp or Slack, which can ensure you keep in contact more frequently throughout the remote working day, as opposed to needing formal calls to connect.
  • Communicate your commitment to raise greater awareness and encourage the conversation. This could include appointing Time to Talk Champions within your business to give employees a work community to speak to and share experiences with.

Being proactive with your approach to mental health in the workplace will ensure your team will be happier, more productive, and more likely to continue working with your company. Overall you just need to remember to consider everyone’s circumstances, no one person is going to be going through the same thing therefore will have different needs. Having management schedule regular one to one each month allows the opportunity for conversation, to raise any issues or concerns and ensure each employee’s wellbeing is protected. 

For more information on the legal support available for managing remote working and mental health in the workplace, contact Jodie Hill from Thrive Law. To explore how a streamlined and branded recruitment process can support you with your wellbeing strategy, get in touch with networx today.

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