Another major consideration for employers is the impact of the subsequent increased workload. Many clients feel their workload has increased over the last 18 months, noting they have actually been busier than usual due to perceived endless availability.
As an example, an individual’s day is often filled with consecutive Zoom calls, listening to more company updates and attending more management meetings, yet they still need to keep on top of the flow of daily emails, telephone calls and other normal day-to-day tasks.
From personal experience, I know that it’s easy to start feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
This can lead to burnout and mental exhaustion that happens swiftly and unexpectedly. Sadly, by the time you know something’s wrong it may be too late.
To exacerbate the issue, it’s not only mental strain we have to consider. Research links work overload and high blood pressure, heart disease and possibly certain cancers. Mental and physical illness are not mutually exclusive.
Conversely, if managed properly home working can be beneficial and bring many positives that couldn’t perhaps previously be enjoyed by permanent office workers.
Taking a balanced view, an RSPH survey also indicated the vast majority don’t want to return to working in an office full time. In fact, three-quarters of respondents (74%) suggested they wanted to split their time between home working and working in an office.
So how do employers find a balance that works for all? In my opinion, they must educate employees about mental health and wellbeing, and look to provide more in-depth training for leadership teams and managers.
Mental health education needs to become part of organisational strategy, not just an afterthought satisfied by ad hoc wellbeing ‘Lunch & Learns’ that arguably achieve very little in the longer term.
Spotting the signs
Awareness and engagement is key. Signs that an employee may be experiencing a period of low mental health can be recognised early if we know what to look for. Education around how to notice those signs in ourselves causes a ripple effect.
Understanding how to position simple and effective – but often difficult – questions such as ‘I’ve noticed some changes in you and I’m concerned thing’s might not all be OK, how are you managing?’ are vital for supporting and helping to maintain employee mental wellbeing.
Thoughtify exists because we know it is important for organisations and employees alike to understand the key causes that lead to mental ill health. It is possible for organisations to plan ahead and incorporate measures to help avoid some of the negative outcomes of working from home. Isolation can be nurtured to become liberation.