To what extent has working from home impacted the wellbeing of employees?

Our incredible partners Ideagen, a leading global provider of quality, health, safety and environmental (QHSE) management software, reflect on the lessons we’ve learnt from a year of working from home.

Using data from Lloyd’s Register, (a survey of 5,500 people globally) they looked at what does homeworking ‘best practice’ look like? And what steps can organisations take to ensure that continued homeworking (which many are demanding as we emerge into this ‘new normal’) leads to positive increases in employee wellbeing?

The following findings are taken from Ideagen’s thought leadership blogs.

A safe working environment

A safe working environment is a basic right of any employee but has traditionally only been concerned with the organisation’s main base, such as the office. Before homeworking was commonplace, the importance of a safe homeworking environment could easily be overlooked and recent reports suggest that only 23.9% of workers had received a home office risk assessment.

Managing stress and workload

If the only difference in working practice is the location, surely it follows that there is no cause for increased stress or workload? Yes, many people have enjoyed benefits such as no commute, more time with family and a better work-life balance. Many employees and, significantly, their employers have also noted increased productivity, particularly for quieter, more focused work.

However, this study found compelling evidence that across-the-board employees are feeling more stressed, working longer hours and are closer to burning out as a result of “blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday.”

The impact of increased stress levels on productivity, engagement and employee satisfaction is huge and has highlighted a need for clearly designed boundaries and expectations to help people feel more in control.

Focus on mental wellbeing

Recent surveys have observed that the mental impact of homeworking was having a detrimental effect on overall wellbeing for remote workers:

• 48% felt negatively about working from home, with working longer hours, feelings of isolation and higher levels of anxiety all cited as reasons
• 50% of employees believe their employer places greater emphasis on physical safety, rather than general well-being
• 48% thought that disclosing a mental health condition would impact their career progression within their current organisation

It is worth remembering that these findings should be understood in the broader context of the pandemic and forced remote working should not be confused with good flex working, missing all the benefits and nuances that come with a broader way of flexible working. Hurried flex, without the necessary strategies and support systems in place, could be detrimental to the working world. Nonetheless, this evidence reveals the need for organisations to focus on mental wellbeing for remote workers.

Making employee wellbeing a priority does not mean simply offering a tokenistic gym membership or free fruit. It means actively listening to employee concerns, responding appropriately and embedding wellbeing into everyday communications. This may look like:

• Providing wellbeing training to staff on managing work-life balance whilst hybrid working.
• Ensuring managers can spot potential signs of poor wellbeing and feel comfortable to have appropriate wellbeing conversations.
• Signposting ongoing mental health information and support for employees.

What next?

Overall, the survey found that although employees recognise the potential for homeworking to improve work-life balance, this does not automatically translate to improvements in employee wellbeing. In fact, global figures indicate that employee wellbeing is in decline.

Although it is important to keep these results in perspective of the broader picture, they clearly demonstrate that organisations are not yet fully harnessing the benefits that homeworking can achieve.

Moving forward, business leaders must seek to prioritise employee wellbeing in real ways, which includes addressing burnout and exhaustion. Leaders should focus on creating a culture wherein breaks are respected and encouraged, working longer hours is not the norm, and employees feel able to speak out about any health and wellbeing concerns freely.

Furthermore, whatever your preferred approach to post-pandemic working, employees are calling for solid plans to be communicated. McKinsey surveyed 5000 workers and found that 40% of respondents reported that they had not heard about any vision from their organisations, with another 28% saying that what they’ve heard remains vague.

This uncertainty is causing anxiety among employees: 47% said that the lack of a clear vision of a post-pandemic world is cause for concern. Organisations need to consider their next steps and communicate them clearly to their workforce.

The above editorial is extracted from Ideagen’s thought leadership blogs which were written by Sophie Willink, Ideagen’s Content Marketing Executive and can be read in full here:

5 ways to make hybrid working work for you

What causes work stress and how can you manage it?

Global Health & Safety insights

Ideagen are on a mission to help organisations keep up with increasing H&S demands and meet their H&S goals.They are a leading global provider of quality, health, safety and environmental (QHSE) management software.

Ideagen offers a suite of quality, collaboration, eLMS and health and safety management products to regulated organisations looking to embed data-driven and safety-first cultures of zero harm, ISO 45001 compliance and industry-leading operational quality.

Across all sectors, the health and safety of employees is a matter of priority. Equipping your workers with the skills and knowledge they need to perform their job safely is vital. Lack of effective training leaves room for risk and incidents.

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