WHAT: Research has found that in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week – including anxiety and depression. These numbers reflect global trends. Working people who have, or have had, mental health problems contribute £225 billion (2.8 trillion SEK) to the UK economy every year – 12.1% of the UK’s total GDP. Hybrid and remote work have made it more isolating for some of these employees, and increased the risk of presenteeism (working whilst sick), and inability to blur work-life boundaries, despite all the best intentions.
The 2019 State of Remote Work report found that remote workers appreciate flexibility, but 49% said their biggest struggle is wellness-related, 22% can’t unplug after work, 19% feel lonely and 8% can’t stay motivated. Workplace culture, management style and trust in employees have been identified as some of the strongest players in workplace mental health. Companies are talking about optimal wellbeing packages and perks, but very often these are office-centered activities. More and more people are discussing how mental health can meaningfully be supported in remote work, such as through: resource supplying, access to counselling, encouraging people to take time off, virtual community gatherings and team building.
The Irish Government’s Remote-working checklist for employers also includes considerations for workplace mental health: most importantly considering whether time is dedicated to allowing employees to have casual chats, as well as ensuring that work-life balance is maintained in a home environment.
SO WHAT: Employee mental wellbeing is a significant contributor to workplace success. Small, low-cost changes can have a very strong impact on an employee’s mental wellbeing, but can be easy to overlook. Laying some time aside to produce a remote-working contract which allows employees to know where they can set their boundaries, or seek help, can make all the difference. A dedicated individual, or even just a dedicated social break time can significantly improve an employee’s wellbeing, without removing from productivity: many people spend more time working from home than from an office, where small-talk and social downtime are an integral part of a day.