Mental Health Awareness Week: What do I do if I’m worried about returning to work after the pandemic?

 

Before the global pandemic, almost 600,000 people suffered from work-related stress, depression and anxiety. However, the way we work could change forever, with many white collar workers employees saying that they prefer a mixture of working from home and time spent in the office. Experts say this could help towards ensuring a better work-life balance for everyone, improving people’s mental health as a result.

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 we take a look at what to do if you’re worried about returning to work after the pandemic, the advantages of hybrid-working and how employers can help support their employees with this transition.

Could the move to hybrid working improve our mental health?

Working from home Digital workplace provider Claromentis, recently conducted a poll on professionals in the UK. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed preferred a hybrid model of working from home and in the office. Of this group, 66% said they save money in a hybrid-working situation. Hybrid-working can cut down on costs such as commuting, childcare, lunch and coffee.

Nearly a third of people surveyed felt less stressed and less anxious when they had the choice of hybrid-working. As a result, they felt more productive and had more time to focus on their own health, fitness and wellbeing, as well as quality time with their loved ones.

Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, said:

“More than a year on, we continue to see employers striving to strike the right balance between remote and office working. The benefits of the office have not been forgotten, yet we continue to become accustomed and comfortable with our home working routines.”

 

“The truth is home versus office working should not be viewed as a binary choice between focus and connection. A true commitment to ‘hybrid working’ will give employees and employers flexibility to work in a way that is best suited to them – allowing them to reap the productivity and social benefits of both home and office working environments, how and when it best suits their needs.”

However, hybrid-working also covers the disadvantages of home working. It’s easier for us to feel lonely and isolated while working fully from home. This is why it’s crucial to strike a balance between working from home and working in-office. A number of companies are taking this into consideration, which leads us to our next question…

What are employers doing to support hybrid-working?

So, how are employers taking this news? Many employers have now seen the benefits of hybrid-working first-hand. Where possible, companies should look to adapt their existing offices, review their own policies and provide up-to-date incentives that truly fit in with people’s work-life balance.

How employers can support hybrid-working:

  • Offer truly flexible working hours where possible
  • Streamline the number of meetings (both online and offline) people have
  • Ensure everyone is correctly set up at home for the remote working portion of the week (providing the right technology, office furniture, health/safety equipment)
  • Provide more opportunities for e-learning and training

Preparing for the switch to hybrid working

There is a difference between planning for remote working in the short term versus long term. Here are a few things you could take into consideration when forming a strategy for remote working:

Short term hybrid working Long term hybrid working
Identify the roles that should be prioritised for returning to an office environment Determine the definition of “hybrid working” for your company – some roles may require a different hybrid working system than others.
Identify the employees who need to continue working from home full time. Examples could be health conditions or caring responsibilities. Offer training and development for hybrid working (including tech privacy/safety training)
Make sure you follow the latest government guidelines Make sure you follow the latest government guidelines
Introduce a phased return to work Encourage employees to ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have
Encourage employees to ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have Make changes to people’s contracts to legally set out hybrid working policies
Provide ongoing support for mental health and wellbeing Consider holding social events and/or team-building activities to keep employees engaged
Provide ongoing support for mental health and wellbeing

Staying safe in the workplace if you have to go to work

If you are anxious or stressed about going to work you may want to speak to your employer to see if they can accommodate any of the following:

  • Allow you to travel to work at quieter times during the day (though it may be that your role doesn’t allow this)
  • Provide you with the right safety or PPE equipment for your role (face shields, face masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, etc).
  • Make exceptions if you’re caring for someone vulnerable

If you’re worried about anything relating to work during the coronavirus pandemic, the mental health charity Mind is a great place to start for help, advice and resources. It is always a good idea to talk to someone if you’re living through stress, depression or anxiety. The Samaritans is a good place to get things off your chest. If you prefer not to talk over the phone, you can email them at jo@samaritans.org and a volunteer will reply to you within 24 hours.

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