In light of the Covid-19 crisis, which has led to an increase in stress and loneliness among the working population, Stress Awareness Month, running through April each year, is more important than ever. To mitigate the effects of the crisis, businesses must encourage and enable their staff to disconnect from the pressures of work.
Circumstances in the United Kingdom have highlighted just how important it is for employees to be able to switch off and relax. In the past few weeks, following the government guidelines aimed to limit the spread of Covid-19, the UK population has faced a major change in their working situation, and most people have either been furloughed by their employers, or are now working from home.
While allowing employees to work in the comfort of their own home may seem relaxing, for some it can be a source of added pressure and stress. In a remote working scenario, employees are often encouraged by their managers to stay connected to email and messaging platforms in order to maintain quick and effective communication, and in a 2016 survey, leading business psychology provider The Myers-Briggs Company found that 31% of employees are expected by their employer or client to check their emails outside of work hours. Many people can therefore find it hard to disconnect from their work, and may end up working longer hours than usual, or using holidays to catch up on work, which ends up going unnoticed by managers due to the lack of direct physical contact with employees.
To aid organisations in combatting work-related stress, John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company advises, “In the current climate, the lines between work and leisure are increasingly blurred, and this, combined with the feelings of isolation that are caused by the limited interaction that comes with social distancing, can lead to excessively elevated levels of stress.”
“Recent research from Deloitte has shown that up to half of workers have claimed to be on holiday when they are actually using leave to catch up on work, The practice, known as leaveism, is reflective of the levels of stress many employees find themselves under, and the problem may also be exacerbated further by organisations furloughing some staff or reducing formal working hours as a way of coping financially with the situation. Managers must act to combat this stress during the Covid-19 crisis, however the stress triggers associated with remote working affect people with different personality preferences in different ways, so it is crucial to keep this in mind when attempting to curb the impact of mental health issues on employees.”
“For example, people with a Perceiving preference on The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator framework – those who like to live their life in a way that is fluid and emergent, may actually be energised by the blurring of work and home life. On the other hand, people with a Judging preference – who prefer to live a more organised and structured life – will often feel a need to keep work and home separate from one another. For these people it is really important to set up a routine in order to manage stress levels.”
“Perhaps the most important advice, however, is for leaders to recognise that remote working will affect each member of staff differently, including themselves. It is therefore crucial that managers recognise their own styles of working as to not impose their preferred work patterns onto employees. In turn, if employees understand how they work to the best of their ability, they are better equipped to cope with remote working. By understanding what strategies work for them, how they can best switch off, avoid information overload, set boundaries and find a form of work-life balance that suits them, they can reduce their stress levels, which will in turn help to combat the rise in stress during this difficult time.”