Pre pandemic less than 10% of people worked from home (WFH). Resulting lockdowns and directives to WFH quadrupled this figure.
Many employees enjoyed WFH, with advantages including less commuting and greater leisure time. Remote work has also been cited as improving mental health by limiting time in stressful work environments.
Hybrid Working Utopia?
Now hybrid models of working are likely to dominate. According to a McKinsey global survey nearly 75% of workers want WFH at least two days a week as combined with the office.
In the UK, 70% of employees believe hybrid working results in a better lifestyle, with 34% saying it will also improve their mental health.
Watching out for your Mental Health
However, WFH has had an impact on people’s wellbeing. In the office, you have greater access to information and peer support who understand job challenges, but often longer hours.
While conversely, WFH can leave you feeling isolated, out of a loop, feeling you need to prove more, lack of routine and blurred boundaries between home and work.
A third of UK staff WFH have difficulties switching off at the end of the day, with negative effects on relationships with those in the same household (Nuffield Health, 2020).
In a slightly tongue in cheek piece of research, Australian scientists found wearing pyjamas all day when WFH didn’t affect productivity but did reduce mental health!
Pre-covid, Giorgi et al. (2017) stated that within the banking sector, stress and mental health problems were increasing and maybe hybrid working is perceived to give the best of both worlds?
But it can be easy to slide into a pattern both at office and home of presenteeism and never switching off.
It has left many feeling more depleted with lower effectiveness and mental exhaustion while trying to adapt to the stressors of frequent changes and lack of daily routine.
It can also lead to feelings of ‘mental fog’ or ‘decision fatigue’. If you are feeling so pressured that you can’t cope or switch off, it can lead to withdrawing from others and mental health issues including burnout, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
Factors which can increase the risk of mental health stressors
- Working across different time-zones with unsocial hours and always feeling ‘switched on’
- New starters
- High demanding jobs, or pressure due to short-staffing and job conflict
- Feeling you have little support
- Feeling you are constantly being checked up on
- Having caring responsibilities
- You are neurodiverse
- Having a disability
- Thinking you shouldn’t take break
(see Felstead, 2021; Grant & Russell, 2021; Kinman, 2021; Kinman, Grant et al. 2020; Kinman &Grant, 2021)
Strategies to aid Mental Wellbeing
Remember the connection between mind and body. Try to eat healthily, exercise when possible and sleep well.
Set your Boundaries
When WFH try and follow a fairly- rigid plan for your working day. This will help you remain focused and reduce procrastination.
Stop for regular breaks. If you can get outside, to break the day up – even better. In the last 30 mins of your working day write an ‘end of day list’ to signify you are finishing work.
Like a routine for leaving the office, create routines for stopping home working. Or, even something as mundane as putting laptop or work items away rather than leaving on view.
If office working use the commute to ‘wind down’. Listening to music or a podcast may help. If WFH start a completely different ‘home’ task to signify the end of the working day.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention in the present and can result in clearer perceptions, increased energy, and coping abilities.
Be mindful and present when at work and extend to being fully present at home.
Practice techniques like structured box breathing if you are able to: Count to four breathing in, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four and repeat the sequence. It can help to destress.
Remember to schedule in activities you enjoy and be fully present with them.
Increase your Resilience
The word resilience originates from resilens – Latin for the elasticity of a substance. Resilience is flexibility to situations and associated with greater job satisfaction and organisational commitment (Ledesma, 2014).
Building resilience helps with workplace and home stress including the transition to hybrid working. Indeed, resilience helps protect during challenges and change – being able to thrive not survive.
Research shows the greatest factors for resilience are social support and collaboration. When working with others remotely it is useful to work on shared documents and build in ‘coffee chat’ moments with colleagues. Reconnect with others in the office and return to routines of social chats and events.
If you need support please speak to your line-manager, a health professional, or national charities including the Samaritans 24/7: 116 123; MIND SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm) or National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 0800 689 5652.
Written by Christine Tanner, Registered Health Psychologist (HCA Healthcare UK), BSc, MSc, MPhil, MBPsS, FRSA, CLARC Senior Fellow, Exec Coach