The Impacts of the pandemic on the way we work are plain to see. But what about the impacts on our wellbeing?
Over the past few months, me and the rest of us here at Sollertis have written a number of blogs about the impact of Coronavirus – It’s impact on the IT industry, our experiences of Working From Home, and adapting to the ‘New Normal’ everyone seems to be talking about. (We’ve even written a discussion paper on the new normal, you can read it here). Amongst all the obvious impacts, challenges, and opportunities faced by organisations the world over, it can sometimes be easy to overlook another, equally key issue – workforce wellbeing.
‘Wellbeing’ is a complex, multidimensional issue; and over the last few months, the way in which many of us work has fundamentally changed. Workforces in the UK and the world as a whole have been forced to adopt a new way of working, changing the way we communicate and live on a day to day basis. This shift in the way we work combined with the changes to our everyday lives have had a tangible impact on people’s health – A study by King’s College London found that 49% of people surveyed were feeling more stressed than they were before the pandemic, citing increased work pressures and anxiety about the future as the common sources of increased stress.
For many, the experience of working from home has been a positive one. Gone are the long commutes and distractions of office chit chat, and many people are reporting a better work life balance, experiencing the benefits of a more flexible way of working. But whilst at least some flexible home working has clear benefits, it can have a number of implications for the wellbeing of employees. With little to no face to face contact, there is a risk individuals can feel isolated from the rest of their team, leaving organisations fragmented and employees excluded. For some, work may be one of the few ways in which they socialise; a lack of regular contact with work leaving people devoid of any human interaction, making home working a much bigger issue than just one of boredom or occasional tedium, but of potential loneliness. This damage to communication can also damage team performance, preventing collaboration, and harming the cohesion that is so important in effective teamwork.
With the way we work changing, ensuring the right tools and processes are in place to facilitate effective communication is key. Regular communication, be it via video calls, messaging platform or a simple phone call ensures that teams remain connected and united despite the geographically dispersed nature of an organisation. Having some face to face contact also allows employees to feel more connected, providing a more immediate way in which to share collaborate and share ideas.
The effects aren’t exclusive to mental health, either. A further study by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori looking at the impacts of lockdown found that of those studied, 48% said they have put on weight during lockdown, and 29% saying they have drunk more alcohol. Without a physical workplace to go to, the closure of gyms and strict lockdowns mean the risk of employees having very little or no physical exercise is very real. These impacts of course feed through to work, with staff likely to feel less motivated and likely to suffer increased sickness rates.
But what can be done to combat these issues? As has been previously touched on, having a well connected workforce is an important factor – with good communication channels in place, individuals will feel more involved, with the ability to talk to others about issues they may be experiencing, or just for a chat. Encouraging employees to have a proper space to work is another key point stressed by many experienced in the world of working from home. With an increase in reports of joint pain and muscle related injury attributed to working environments, creating a comfortable and supportive place to work is more important than ever.