Preparing for the next storm- Workplace mental well-being following the global pandemic

The emergence of the highly infectious, severe, acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus more commonly known as COVID-19 has to date created a global health crisis that prompted governments to execute extraordinary social distancing measures and restrictions to curtail the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. Throughout Ireland and across the globe, these restrictions have had wide-ranging impacts, from limiting time outside of the home and the ability to work, to prompting the closing of schools and childcare, impacting how and where education is delivered.

Quality of life has taken a missile hit. An outcome of these restrictions has been a severe economic downturn causing job insecurity and unemployment [Bell & Blanchflower, 2020]. The COVID-19 pandemic still is a significant threat to humanity as variants still develop. As a global pandemic progresses, its putting strain on both our healthcare and economic systems in ways that are significant and obvious.

Looking past these domains, COVID-19 still poses a profound threat to our overall wellbeing and Mental Health. There is no health without Mental Health [WHO,2019]. This pandemic poses a threat to our most basic human motivations, especially human connection. While the threat to human connection is nearly universal, the specific pathways by which COVID-19 still impacts our mental health are likely variable across individuals.

Regarding adult mental health and the workplace setting throughout Covid-19, the remote working survey from NUIG looked at one of the most significant public he alth measures introduced as part of the COVID-19 response. This has been the Government direction to work from home where possible. Introduced in March 2020, this practice has continued to varying degrees as the Government restrictions have lifted and then been re-introduced. This report examines the period from March 2020 to late August 2020, in the context of working from home. It highlighted not only were people asked to work from home where at all possible, but school and childcare facilities were closed, and many were juggling both working from home and home-schooling. It was also a situation introduced very rapidly as an emergency response to the pandemic crisis. Loneliness and isolation, staying motivated and difficulties with the physical workspace were identified as the main challenges to working remotely. These challenges had a huge impact on workers mental health and overall wellbeing.

A summary of this report looked at data that was collected from employees across a wide range of industries and sectors over a one-week period from 27 April to 5 May 2020.

  • A total of 7,241 responses were received.
  • Over half of respondents (51%) never worked remotely before the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Of these workers, more than three-quarters (78%) would like to continue to work remotely after the crisis is over.
  • Nearly half of respondents (48%) report that it is easy or somewhat easy to effectively work these days.
  • 37% indicated that it is somewhat difficult or difficult to effectively work these days.
  • There were three top challenges of working remotely that included not being able to switch off from work. The issues of collaboration and communication with colleagues and co-workers was harder and that the poor physical workspace was a problem.

 

One of the main spotlights this report examined was the need for employers and managers to acknowledge, through their actions, the toll the crisis can have on employees’ mental health. This is key finding from working in the Covid-19 pandemic and this informs the hybrid model of working and many workplaces need to ask the question; Do we need to upskill managers in dealing with the human connection and whole person for the future of work? The relationship of work and mental health has been illuminated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It also highlights the workplace setting as a key determinant to mental health and overall wellbeing. With COVID-19, the water has been cleared we’ve made it to the life raft. Dry land has approached but the question we need to ask ourselves is what learnings and measures are being putting in place for the next storm?

 

World Mental Health Day takes place on Sunday, October 10th 2021.

If you are struggling, please seek help:

Mental Health Ireland – (01) 284 1166

Pieta House – 0818 111 126 / Text HELP to 51444

Samaritans – 116 123

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