For many UK businesses, the most recent announcement that lockdown easing will be delayed by four weeks means they will be working remotely for a little while longer. Despite reaping the benefits of lockdown, such as more flexibility and a healthier work/life balance, the negative impacts on people are nothing new.
Research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found nearly a third of UK workers say that working from home during this second lockdown has been made worse for their mental health and wellbeing. 67 per cent of respondents reported feeling ‘less connected’ to their colleagues and 56 per cent found it harder to switch off from work, essentially undoing the gain of a healthier work/life balance.
So, how can workers who have been looking forward to a return to the office better manage the continuation of remote working?
A study by Wild Goose found that work breaks have decreased for 95 per cent of employees during home working and nearly half (45 per cent) of the working population are not taking the health and safety recommended break from their desk every hour. Overworking and not creating rigid boundaries between work and play can lead to burnout, presenteeism and job unsatisfaction, both contributing factors to a decrease in productivity levels. Particularly with this ‘final push’, it’s important that employees are setting allocated times for breaks and finishing – and (trying to) stick to them.
The RSPH found that 67 per cent of employees feel less connected from their colleagues during the working from home era. Interestingly, while 74 per cent of employees want to remain working from home post-pandemic, at least for most of the week, they also demand “more social contact with workmates”. While this may seem a contradiction, over-the-desk communication, water-cooler conversations and daily lunches with colleagues is a past-time that many humans as social creatures need.
Thanks to evolving technology, the world has been able to connect, share and collaborate via various online platforms and modes of communication, and in turn has enabled the flow of work to continue. It’s important for colleagues to continue to utilise these methods in the coming weeks in order to stay connected to their teammates to prepare for the eventual return to the office.
Begin a transition period
For the most part, the UK’s workforce has been working from the confines of their bedroom. The RSPH found over one in four (26 per cent) are working from a sofa or a bedroom, so it’s not too surprising that many are eager to get back into some form of working environment with real desks, chairs and facilities. In order to prepare for the eventual return, home workers can try to begin a ‘transition period’. During this ‘final push’, waking up earlier each week, leaving the house for a walk around usual commute times, and sticking to a daily routine may alleviate feelings of stress or dread following the recent lockdown extension, and make that first early alarm and commute a little easier.
Talk to someone
Many employees and employers alike have struggled with working from home, some citing difficulties of switching off and others reporting a decrease in productivity and motivation. A study by Nuffield Health found 80 per cent of Brits feel working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health. In such unprecedented times, it’s important to remember that it is OK to feel uneasy about more lockdown extensions.
Regular communication with friends, colleagues or line managers is important, and even casual conversations can enhance your thinking, improve your perceptions of a difficult situation and ease your mind. They might even feel the same way, and suggest a safe, sub-6-person lunch break outdoors.
Tackling ‘lockdown anger and stress’ is not uncommon. However you may feel about the lockdown extension, it’s important to consider the things that are inside of your control, such as your daily wellbeing routine, regular communication methods and a work/life balance. Whilst this final push seems ‘so close yet so far’, it is inevitable that normality will return, in one way or another.