Addressing The Physical And Mental Effects In The Work Place Because Of The Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of workers around the world.
For some employees, the lockdown allowed them to redress their work-life balance and adopt a more flexible working pattern. Working remotely from home, instead of being in an office environment from 9 am until 5 pm, brought a welcome break from the daily commute and the expectation to dress to impress.
Others, however, felt isolated and missed the day-to-day interactions with colleagues. A Zoom call is never going to replace gossip over a cup of tea, face-to-face training sessions or an after-work drink with colleagues.
Business leaders and their teams have had to adapt as best they can, many juggling the demands of home schooling and fulfilling their corporate roles.
Across some industries, entire workforces were fractured. The office staff worked from home to protect essential workers on the shop floor, producing medicines, hand sanitiser and PPE.
Remote working has not been a short-term measure. When (most) restrictions were lifted on July 19, people had been working remotely either entirely or sporadically for the best of nine months. We sat at kitchen tables and in spare bedrooms for those long weeks, trying our best to keep businesses going without knowing when we’d sit around a boardroom table again.
Those unable to work from home, such as those in the hospitality industry and travel, were placed on leave, their jobs protected but cut adrift from their professional lives and isolated from colleagues.
Now, as we begin to emerge into a ‘new normal’ working environment, it’s inevitable that a global event on the seismic scale of the Covid-19 crisis will leave a lasting imprint on how we do business on many levels.
Wellbeing At The Fore
An increased focus on physical and mental well-being is one of the positives to emerge from the pandemic. However, as company leaders look to regenerate business and kick on from the pandemic, it is vital that they retain what has been learned about employee wellbeing.
We worked hard at Red Diamond Executive Search to create a happy, healthy and mentally strong workforce. From a purely business standpoint, a happy, healthy employee is more productive than someone suffering from issues with anxiety or isolation.
But as a small team, it means far more than that. Fortunately, we enjoyed weekly wellness sessions that included a physical element – yoga, for instance – and brought in a mindfulness expert to address our mental well-being. During our 90-minute sessions, we talked about everything from self-belief to the effects of stress and learned far more about one another than we probably would have done on a night out!
However, not all businesses will have the time or resources to focus on employee well-being. In addition, some effects of the various lockdowns have not yet come to light. The mental health charity MIND found that 60 per cent of adults and 68 per cent of young people said their mental health had suffered during the pandemic, while the Office for National Statistics estimates one in five adults has experienced some form of depression in early 2021 – double the number observed before the pandemic.
Another impact of lockdown and ongoing social distancing is that employees may be anxious about returning to work for fear of catching the virus or passing it on to family and friends.
Job security is another worry, particularly among staff who have been on furlough for a substantial period.
What Are The Long-term Physical Effects Of The Pandemic In The World Place?
Research is ongoing into the long-term physical impact of isolation and remote working. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a comfortable office chair they can pull up to their kitchen table, which will result in an increase in musculoskeletal issues. Fatigue, reduced exercise and increased alcohol consumption have been all too common during the lockdowns, leaving people feeling irritable or depressed.
At this relatively early stage, it is apparent that long covid – where symptoms last for more than 12 weeks – will also contribute to poor mental and physical health. It is estimated 1.1 million people in the UK have long covid, a situation which could have a lasting effect on many workforces.
Far from expecting their staff to rush back to work, employers will need to bring in a raft of measures to support employees whose health is suffering due to Covid-19. This includes short-term support, as workers return to the office, but also in the long term, to help people achieve an effective work-life balance and to provide support for severe mental health issues.
The time for business leaders to act is now, so the necessary support framework is in place. Rather than putting on pressure to make up for lost revenue, employers must ensure they support their workforce both now and in the future.
 Figures from the CIPD https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/supporting-mental-health-workplace-return#gref