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Helping employees recover from remote working’s mental health implications

Helping employees recover from remote working’s mental health implications

By Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health

The global pandemic has seen many employees suddenly required to work from, often embracing the positive aspects of remote working – like a reduced commute, the opportunity for exercise or spending extra time with family. 

However, the change has taken its toll on other aspects of our lives. As we look forward to restrictions easing, it’s important to note the ‘new normal’ is likely to include continued remote working opportunities and employees will have new challenges to face. So, it’s important employers are able to support their team in the ‘new normal’ 

The emotional wellbeing impact of remote working 

Remote working is often viewed as a work perk, giving employees the flexibility to manage their personal and professional lives in equal measures. However, Nuffield Health research suggests the stress and isolation of remote working can take its toll on the mental wellbeing of remote workers. 

That’s why remote working shouldn’t be a blanket benefit for all employees. Employers should take the time to make sure flexible arrangements work for the individual.  

Remote working is often viewed as a benefit for the younger, tech-savvy workforce; however, our whitepaper revealed most remote workers are over 40 years old. 

However, an employee is not better suited by age or length of service, but by their ability to be productive and maintain a healthy relationship with work outside the office. 

Those able to use their initiative and who are confident tackling tasks alone are suited to working remotely, plus employees who are self-disciplined and self-motivated, as they’ll be required to manage much of their time. 

An ability to separate work from home life is also key. Just because you’re using your home as a work base for the day, doesn’t mean you should be checking emails into the evening or working an unhealthy amount of overtime.  

There is a limit to how many hours we can sustainably work in a day, every day, before exhaustion takes over and we find ourselves unable to cope, an occupational phenomenon now defined by the WHO as ‘burnout’. 

Plus, while those new to remote working may thrive under the added flexibility of remote working, spending too long (over 2.5 days per week) away from the office can also have a negative impact on job satisfaction and work relationships. 

This, in turn, can lead to feelings of isolation and stress, as employees struggle to clock-off and can’t seek immediate support or advice from a manager. 

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