Supporting the mental health of employees is now more important than ever. They may feel worried about their job security, struggling to cope with isolation during lockdown, or facing increased stress as a result of working from home. With a second lockdown well underway, we must consider the potential impact of working from home on employees’ mental health. With a greater number of employees becoming overworked during such a time, and their mental health suffering as a result, the solution of therapy is suggested in order to help find the balance between their work and private lives, now that they are so closely intertwined at home.
Whilst there are a many detrimental effects of working from home, especially due to a lack of social interaction and the difficulty of being able to differentiate between work and personal lives, there are still many useful skills that can be gained from this experience. Namely, the increased flexibility of work routine and the increased independency experienced by some. Employees are free from a potentially stressful commute, workplace distractions such as office chatter, and the strict routine of the workplace. This new flexibility in working hours may actually be favourable to some, with up to 65% of respondents to Flexjobs’ annual survey arguing that they are more productive in their home office compared to the traditional workplace. With apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, virtual interactions can easily occur, ensuring progress and communication is maintained. All in all, when working from home is implemented effectively, it can really work for some people.
And yet for others, the negative effects of this new way of work greatly overshadows any potential benefits. The obvious contributing factors include reduced socialisation with peers, and unfamiliar work environments that may propose new challenges or distractions, like having children in the home. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that for those experiencing “high anxiety” during the pandemic, over 1 in 5 said that they were finding working from home “problematic” and that their work had been affected. By ‘bringing the office home’, many find it difficult to concentrate in the environment they had always associated with their personal lives. This can damage a persons’ ability to know when to stop working. Without a clear routine to follow, many employees find themselves working more than ever, encouraged to work for longer so that they can get tasks done. This unleashes a new wave of problems that can harm one’s mental health, particularly to those who find it difficult to mention this to their employers, or to those who are struggling to find the perfect balance and are suffering as a result.
Therapy or guidance can be introduced as an aid to those who may need assistance, teaching employees the skills they need to deal with demanding work schedules and providing them with a structure to organise their working day. It can also be used to create successful, personalised routines for people so that their work life and their private life can coexist peacefully in the same household. With COVID-19 posing a threat to our physical health, prioritising our mental health has never been more important. Helping people create a balance between the place where they live and where they now work is vital to ensure their mental health is not negatively affected, with the therapists of our society best equipped to help with this. Where all issues of the body are helped by doctors of medicine, the struggles of our mind are helped by doctors of psychology.
Dr Liliya Korallo Psychology is a leading CBT/DBT therapist based in London that has worked with large numbers of people working from home to support their mental wellbeing.
Written by Andrew Theophani
Honorary Assistant Psychologist