According to a new study carried out by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health, about a third (35 per cent) of those surveyed said that they are struggling with their mental health as a result of the pandemic, with 12 per cent of those never having suffered from poor mental wellbeing before now. From this data, Benenden Health has deduced that this could mean up to 23 million people are currently suffering from poor mental wellbeing.
Benenden Health’s report unveiled that one in five people who are experiencing poor mental wellbeing said work is causing them the most stress in their daily lives, with 11 per cent concerned about losing their job and eight per cent stressed by their workload.
And in separate research commissioned by online professional network platform LinkedIn – carried out in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation – it emerged that the majority of employees (86 per cent) said that remote working is having a negative impact on their health because they feel the need to prove to bosses that they are working hard and deserve to keep their jobs. Indeed, LinkedIn uncovered that those working from home are clocking up an extra 28 hours of monthly overtime on average since the lockdown began – equating to nearly four days’ extra work.
As a result, 31 per cent are now sleeping badly, 30 per cent have experienced rising anxiety and 24 per cent admit their mental health is suffering.
Those working from home are clocking up an extra 28 hours of monthly overtime on average since the lockdown began
The same study highlighted that 58 per cent of HR managers fear that the mental health impact of working from home due to Covid-19 is so great that they will begin to lose staff due to burnout; 54 per cent asked believed that mental health issues such as anxiety, burnout, isolation and loneliness have become more prevalent amongst employees in their company; and 56 per cent are concerned about lower team morale.
On the other hand, working from home does have its benefits: 44 per cent of employees surveyed reported that they now feel more connected to their family; and 54 per cent said that they can also see the benefits that come with working from home and would like their employer to give them the option to do so more often when lockdown is over.
Improving employee mental wellbeing
Both studies highlighted that employees could do more to alleviate the mental strain on their workforce.
Commenting on how businesses can support their workforces during this time, Cheryl Lythgoe, Head Matron at Benenden Health, said: “It’s harder to identify issues when teams are working remotely, on furlough or social distancing, so taking the time to check in with team members, holding regular video calls and company updates, and keeping people informed will go a long way in promoting positive mental health. We also recommend encouraging staff to take regular screen breaks, get exercise within the government guidance, and promote a clear work-life balance to help reduce stress.”
We cannot have the same business-as-usual expectations on ourselves or of our employees – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time, look after children at home and keep up our other responsibilities
And thankfully, the LinkedIn study reported that organisations surveyed said they had taken steps to combat employee burnout and other mental health problems, with 34 per cent saying they had introduced additional private mental health support (e.g. private healthcare); 44 per cent introducing professional mental health support; 33 per cent having enforced working hours or banned out of hours emails; 36 per cent introducing additional mental or physical training sessions (e.g. yoga, meditation); and 33 per cent introducing additional holiday, sabbaticals and flexible working hours.
“Burnout, which is caused by chronic workplace stress, is a modern phenomenon that poses a huge risk to our physical and mental health. People working from home during these unprecedented times are at a greater risk of burnout due to the high stakes environment we find ourselves in both globally and personally. We cannot have the same business-as-usual expectations on ourselves or of our employees – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time, look after children at home and keep up our other responsibilities,” said the Mental Health Foundation’s Chris O’Sullivan.
“While there are many difficulties as a result of this situation, it’s encouraging to see that the research also shows that many of us enjoy the benefits of having more time at home – which they are using to connect with family, exercise and eat well. It’s important to find time to decompress, set up a routine, and manage expectations of yourself and others to help get on top of your workload and stress levels. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to your manager or speak to a professional about how to get back on track.”