Will staff recover from the mental health impact of lockdown?

Almost three in five businesses fear losing staff to sick leave due to the mental health impacts of working in lockdown, a survey has found. More than half of the businesses surveyed said they believed mental health issues such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness had increased among their workforce since the coronavirus crisis hit and most workers have had to do their jobs from home.

The Mental Health Foundation and LinkedIn polled more than 1,000 managers in medium to large UK companies with staff working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than three-quarters said they believed the widespread implementation of home working encouraged so-called ‘e-presenteeism’ – a culture where workers feel they should be online and available to colleagues as much as possible, even when feeling unwell or having already worked their contracted hours.

The Mental Health Foundation believes that staff working from home during the crisis are “at greater risk of burnout” as a result of the “high-stakes environment we find ourselves in both globally and personally”.

While workers able to do their jobs remotely are in a privileged position compared to those required to attend a place of work, they nonetheless face wellbeing challenges. The study also polled more than 2,000 adults working from home. 86% said remote working was having a negative impact on their health.

Employees working from home reported putting in an extra 28 hours per month on average since lockdown measures were introduced.  Almost a third of workers said they were experiencing increased anxiety, with a similar number reporting disturbed sleep.

There are a variety of reasons employees may be working extra hours and experiencing burnout during lockdown, including increased workloads, picking up the work of colleagues furloughed or off sick and the pressure of juggling work with parenting responsibilities.

For managers, communication is even more important now than ever.  Managers should try to create opportunities  for their teams to tell them about any issues they’re facing, whether personal, professional or both. It is also important to include furloughed staff in any group socialising.

The survey also demonstrated the benefits of remote working for employees, however. More than two in five workers said they felt more connected to their families, and 54% said they would like their employers to give them more opportunity to work from home when lockdown measures were lifted.

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