Changing working environments on mental health

We have all been impacted by the changing of our working environments during the pandemic. A survey carried out by RSPH reveals the mental and physical health impacts of full-time home working during Covid-19. Key results show:

  • 45% felt working from home was better for their health and wellbeing. This is compared with 29% who thought working from home was worse for their health and wellbeing
  • Of those who switch to working from home have experienced health and wellbeing impacts including:
    • 46% taking less exercise
    • 37% suffering from disturbed sleep
  • 67% saying they felt less connected to their colleagues and 56% saying they found it harder to switch off.
  • 34% had been offered support with their mental health from their employer.

The findings of the survey also showed 74% of respondents did not want to return to the office full time. They would prefer to split their time between home working and working in an office.

What impact does the changing working environment have on business?

With more people working remotely, this has impacted both business processes and management styles. Not only has this created a disconnection between teams and their managers (as seen by the survey results above), new working environments have also created a sense of fear for employees.

Not having the physical engagement and interaction between a team, some personalities who have more confidence than others could inadvertently become more domineering.

Human nature is such that relationships need social interaction and personal connection to develop, strengthen, and be maintained. We all have heard of anecdotes of long-distance personal relationships that ultimately failed. So meeting and interacting in person, being in and sharing the same space and events are fundamental to developing understanding and trust which in turn play an important role in our mental health. And prolonged interactions mean we get a measure of seeing each other for who we are.

If you can build this trust in a working environment people will be more likely to open up and admit they have a problem. This will allow them to get support and as a result, create a more productive workplace. And doing so while never meeting face to face is much, much harder. After all, you can’t just go for a coffee to mull things over or to spontaneously share or listen.

Balance of risk in the workplace

Look at the bigger picture. Managing people virtually and not in an office environment will always have an impact on business processes and outputs. It is important to highlight any challenges without causing conflict and creating a blame culture. There needs to be the right balance of risk.

The accountability lies with the manager. It is the manager’s role to recognise the signs of the impact on employees from a changing working environment and their challenges to adapting. The manager should be able to create a safe environment that encourages employees to ask for help and ensure they have a voice. This requires making time for employees and making time to listen. It is so easy to go from meeting to meeting and set up a ‘coffee meeting’ which ends up being yet another meeting without the personal touch or the banter.

Managing this balance of risk and creating a safe working environment is a key foundation to help the mental health of employees through the next phases of change the emergence out of the pandemic will bring and will also give them the security and assurance they need after the impact the pandemic has already had.

#MentalHealthAwareness #mentalhealth #itsokaynottobeokay

At Acceler8 Consultancy, we are experts in anything from organisational design to process and culture change. We make sure the change is embedded. If you need support with your changing working environments, helping managers and employees adapt, get in touch for a discovery call to see how we can help. 

About the Author
A Change and Programme Management professional with international experience in business transformation, from strategy definition to implementation and covering all dimensions of change: sourcing, contracts, policy, process, IT, infrastructure, behavioural, organisational. John is a Fellow of the Institute of Consulting, a Change Management Practitioner, and MBA qualified who has delivered change and integration of customer facing, commercial, operational and back office capabilities in various organisations.

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