Hybrid working models or the continuation of full-time remote working post-pandemic will bring with it a range of new wellbeing and mental health challenges that both employees and employers will have to navigate, according to a leading provider of employee and student assistance services.
Earlier this year, a survey carried out CV Library found that 55% of UK workers were experiencing anxiety about the return to the office post-pandemic. With many employers now exploring hybrid working arrangements in the future, where time would be split between office working and remote working, Spectrum.Life – a leading mental health and wellbeing provider in Ireland and the UK – has highlighted that this new approach will lead to employers facing new challenges when supporting the health and needs of their staff.
A review of calls made to the Spectrum.Life’s employee counselling services last year found a 21% increase in the number of people seeking assistance compared to the year prior. Covid-related concerns were the big driver behind this increase, with an 80% increase in calls relating to bereavement noted during the early months of the pandemic. However, in recent months calls relating to workplace stress, anxiety around the return to the office and employee burnout have increased significantly.
“The impact COVID-19 is having on people’s mental health is far from over, but in recent months we have seen a shift in the concerns that people are expressing when they engage our services. In the early months of the pandemic, many people contacting our Case Managers were dealing with recent bereavement and the upset that came with not being able to have a proper funeral for their loved ones,” Dr. Emelina Ellis, Clinical Excellent Lead at Spectrum.Life said. “However, more recently people have been engaging our services due to workplace-related stress – in particular anxiety about the return to the office and feelings of burnout.”
“Throughout the last 18 months, many employees have been working extra hours or have taken on additional tasks to support their employer during the pandemic and successive lockdowns. However, this is now taking its toll on many people and as we transition towards post-pandemic lives, employers will have to assess how they support their employee’s mental wellbeing and their right to disconnect as they blend remote and office-based working.”
Among the challenges likely to face employees and employers as hybrid working models are introduced nationwide, according to Spectrum.Life, will be balancing employee workloads, employers encouraging their employees to avoid regularly working additional hours while working remotely, and the loss of regular in-person contact for people managers with their teams. As part of their planning stages ahead of introducing any new hybrid or full-time remote working arrangements, Spectrum.Life is encouraging employers to assess the current mental health supports available to their staff and ensure they are providing sufficient training to people managers on how to support their teams without regular in person contact.
“Within the latest version of the Government’s COVID-19 Protocol for Employers and Workers, the government stressed that employers in Ireland should ensure that their teams have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) over the coming months to support them with any stress or anxiety that they may be feeling,” Dr. Ellis added. “However, employers should also assess what additional training their people managers may need to deal with the new challenges presented by hybrid working. In the past it was often the case that team leads and managers were best positioned to identify members of their team who may have been struggling with mental health challenges or workplace related stress. However, this becomes much more challenging with the loss of regular in-person contact between team members, so we would strongly encourage businesses to reflect on how they support their teams as new working models emerge and to ensure that they are providing satisfactory supports and mental health training.”