Working from home is not as easy as some people may think, especially for those of us who are appreciative of “conventional office life”.
Many employees in the coming weeks may experience unanticipated mental health consequences from mandated remote work, and it’s important to be aware of this reality. Two causes for concern are isolation and burnout. Remote work is a common trend in many industries today, especially tech and business services; many are already familiar with how the solitude of working remotely can impact mental health. For those who are accustomed to and appreciative of conventional office life and a steady rate of social interactions at the office, the shift to remote work as a result of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic might cause a surprising, even if relatively mild, deterioration of mental health.
Having some extra flexibility and independence can be incredibly freeing for some people. Not only do you have fewer rules to abide by, you also have more control of your time. You can start to schedule your hardest tasks during your productivity peak hours, recharge during a 2-hour lunch or take a mid-morning yoga class. This rings particularly true for those who may feel restricted by their hours, commute or office environment. Remote work can be a great solution for reducing stress and adding more joy to life. However, this isn’t a blanket effect. Working from home might be a trigger to some people’s mental health, feeling isolated and disconnected. When you don’t have to show up to an office, you miss out on opportunities to connect with your co-workers and to have regular social interactions. Although working remotely allows you to bypass distracting co-workers, small social interactions like chatting at the watercooler and venting about life simply doesn’t translate the same over slack.
The need to maintain relationships with managers and co-workers is a top priority for those who are energized by it. This is critical to maintaining a good work performance, emotional and mental wellness. This is where technology can be implemented to aid the lack of interpersonal communication, and because many companies already maintain a remote workforce, even when not enforcing social distancing, it has been proven to work. To minimize the feeling of isolation, many organizations encourage scheduling “virtual coffee breaks” during work hours to increase collaboration and create a more comfortable work environment. Various methods to encourage interactions like these are an easy fix on behalf of the employer, but they should be thoughtfully implemented until employees are able to safely return to their offices.
On a positive note, the Covid-19 situation demonstrated the unexpected ability of many organizations to quickly adapt to the physical and mental health needs of their employees. If one thing is certain, it’s that in times of uncertainty and anxiety, mental wellness at home or at the office must be a top priority of leaders.
We need to acknowledge that these are not normal times. Pretending that you are doing business as if you were in the office, but from home, is just not true, and we need to make adjustments. Work with your team to identify areas that are essential and the priorities and tasks where you need to focus your energy.
If you’re concerned about the effects of Covid-19 on your employees, don’t wait for the storm to pass before turning your focus to employee engagement. Now is the time to survey your employees and understand their current challenges. Download a copy of our Covid-19 survey statements now.
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