Exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental wellbeing of employees forced to work from home during lockdown.
In March 2020, in response to the governments lockdown decision, we all had to adapt quickly to a new rhythm of life, new methods of working, new approaches to schooling and new ways of keeping in touch with colleagues, friends and family.
As our brain interprets all change (without exception), initially as a threat, for many of us, this will have had an impact on our mental wellbeing, which will inevitably have impacted our ability to keep focused and remain effective.
This was perhaps especially true for those of us that had to continue to work, sometimes with higher pressure and increased expectations, but from home rather than in our usual working environment.
Whilst for some, working from home might seem like a desirable option, the reality is that in many ways it can be more challenging than working from a workplace, especially during a sudden and unexpected global pandemic.
We wanted to gain an understanding of how working
from home during this challenging period has impacted employees’ mental wellbeing and so we surveyed 152 people between May and June 2020 to find out more
about their experience.
As we face the reality of our ‘new normal’ we hope that our report will provide organisations with an understanding of both the challenges and benefits of home working and the impact on work-related stress, as well as what changes might need to be made to better support the mental wellbeing of their people.
What we discovered
Our respondents were mainly women and the majority working within large companies with 250 employees or more.
Just over half had children between the ages of 0-18 years at home and of those, an equal amount had sole responsibility, shared responsibility and no responsibility (or capacity) for home-schooling,
For a quarter of people, working from home was not new to them and for the majority it was an unfamiliar experience.
Half of people had their own designated workspace away from the main living area of the home and the rest utilised shared areas for work purposes.
Following a work routine was achievable for most, but for many it was a challenge and whilst complete flexibility with hours worked was possible for some, it wasn’t for the the majority.
The vast majority felt they were able to keep in regular contact with their colleagues and many felt supported by their line manager, although a significant number felt they needed more support.
We asked some specific questions around what kind of support would have been most helpful, the responses to which are detailed in the full report.
With regards to work-related stress, what we found was interesting: Prior to lockdown and working from home, work-related stress levels were moderate to high, but they appeared to reduce for those reporting moderate levels, and only increased for those reporting high levels, as a result of lockdown.
We asked some specific questions around what kind of stress symptoms people experienced during lockdown and identified 6 top symptoms, which are detailed in the full report. It is worth noting that all of these symptoms can have a direct impact on a person’s ability to work effectively.
It is clear that COVID-19 has brought challenges, some more difficult to overcome or cope with than others. It is also clear that whilst some have coped well with these challenges, others have found them more problematic.
What’s common for us all is that with the restrictions of COVID-19, we are missing the availability of the regular leisure and social activities that often enable us to keep in positive mental health and as we face the reality of this current situation being the new normal for some time, the continued restriction to these activities may cause our mental wellbeing to become compromised.
Equally, there have clearly been a number of benefits that have come out of working from home for many and as with all adversity, there is the opportunity for reflection and learning and for new ways of doing ‘life’ (including the way we work) to emerge.
We have heard of organisations who are now considering new ways of doing things, including increased opportunities for flexible working, saving money on office space, and investing more in equipping their people with a more conducive home working set-up. The media have also speculated on whether the pandemic signals the end of our traditional 9-5 working model and beginning of the end for the daily commute.
We’d love to share the full report with you.
We’d also be interested to hear what you learn from our findings and what changes you might make moving forward to better support the people in your organisation to contribute the best of themselves and work at their optimum.
Get in touch and we’ll send it to you.
Get the full report now!
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