How Remote Working Has Impacted Workforce Mental Health

The transition from working from the office to working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak has not been an easy one for many. Under these unusual circumstances, it has been a shock to the system since human beings are wired for social connection. It’s no wonder remote working has impacted mental health rates and seen a sharp decline.

While many of us were pleased to report to work in our comfort clothes, adapting to the new normal has posed some challenges. Working in a pandemic induced environment often needs one to adapt quickly with little-to-no physical support from colleagues and management. It’s easy to understand that the sudden transition has impacted workforce mental health.

Although technology has made connection with others simple, it has not replaced the need for water cooler conversations or happy hour. In fact, employees have found themselves struggling to find a working balance between their professional and personal lives. While the commute to work has been eliminated and seen a higher increase in employee productivity, the weight of adapting to a new way of work, in addition to the uncertainty of the pandemic, remains challenging.

A remote workforce is the workforce of the future but needs to be approached pragmatically and with caution where people’s mental health is concerned. Working longer hours, relying on poor connectivity to attend meetings and reach deadlines, or dealing with loadshedding, can often add to the stress of remote working. Ultimately, it’s important for management to take into consideration the changing landscape of office-based-work and its long-term effects on their employees.

How to create a mentally healthy workforce

  • Flexible is best

The future of work is in a hybrid model, and it is here to stay. Some ways to implement a socially connected team can be adjusting this flexible work model. According to Microsoft’s Trend Index Survey, 70 percent of workers prefer flexible remote work options, while 65 percent want more in-person time with their teams.

  • Back to basics

“If you do what you did, you get what you got”. Sometimes taking a step back from technology to foster better social interaction is key. Relying on technology to offer employee empathy to struggling employees might cause a barrier for transparency. Managers must be mindful of the challenges their workforce may face but not bring to their attention. Scheduling one-on-one sessions with employees to check on them or organising out of office group activities to maintain social interaction can add positively to their mental health.

  • Meaningful connection

Keeping up with continuous pandemic adjustments and its effect on office obligations can be hard to balance. Creating a strict structure for your team that separates their personal from their professional lives can reduce stress levels. Encouraging employees to unplug from the workday or introducing online and offline exercise classes can impact greatly on their need for staying healthy and connected.

  • Transform work for the better

Before WFH became the norm, office culture impacted greatly on the performance of employees. While understanding that the landscape of work has become more digitised, it’s important to foster a work environment where employees feel comfortable showing up as their best selves. This can mean feeling included and seen no matter what their backgrounds are. Ensuring that all employees needs are empowered in their day-to-day tasks.