The Mental Health Foundation launched the Mental Health Awareness Week campaign 21 years ago and continue to set the theme, organise, and host the week each year. It’s an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health and has grown to become one of the biggest awareness weeks across the UK and globally.
This year PHARMExcel is supporting Mental Health Awareness Week which is looking to raise awareness of the link between loneliness and mental health issues.
Loneliness affects the mental health of millions of people across the UK. The Mental Health Awareness Foundation states that “We need to tackle this issue together in our communities and across the whole of society”.
During this week’s campaign the HR department at PHARMExcel want to raise awareness of loneliness and how this might affect its employees, in particular the effects that working from home may have on staff.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to change their working practices. Overnight companies were required to send their employees home to work remotely and this status quo has remained for many companies.
Feedback from remote workers during the initial lock downs was mixed; some viewing home working as a great benefit, saving time and travel costs, creating more flexibility for childcare, looking after elderly relatives and even pets! However, whilst some appeared to be content with this new arrangement, many commented on feelings of loneliness and isolation, particularly if they lived alone and didn’t have the opportunity to interact with others during the working week.
Remote working has taken away the contact we have each day with our colleagues, the office banter, meeting for social drinks, being able to get quick advice from more senior/experienced colleagues, and also being more immediately aware how staff are feeling.
Flexible working is now high on the employment agenda causing a stir amongst many employers.
Alternative measures need to be introduced by organisations for remote working to have a positive outcome for both the employer and employee, ensuring productivity doesn’t dip, staff remain engaged and feel part of the organisation and work-life balance continues. Interestingly at the beginning of the pandemic we saw staff productivity increase. Staff were enjoying the work-life balance. Spending less time commuting meant more time for well-being activities and family life. However, as the UK government restrictions continued, we saw staff working hours creeping up with some employees struggling to turn the laptop off at the end of the day; work and home life began to blur into one.
As more staff are working fully remotely or more flexibly, it’s important that employers make sure that their staff are still looked after and best practices are implemented. Here are 5 recommendations to support your remote workers:
During lock down we introduced coffee chats once a week, held virtual team quizzes and even had a virtual Christmas party! We regularly check-in with our staff and try, where possible, to have a face-to-face team lunch or after work drinks. We held a large company team day last year and are looking forward to a company social event in the Summer.
As a business who recognised the advantages of employing remote workers far before the COVID-19 pandemic, we already had some remote-working practices in place, such as Office 365. The transition for the whole company (excluding our Clinical Trial Administrators who remained office based), was therefore relatively smooth. As restrictions began to lift, we made a conscious decision to gather staff feedback on how they felt about returning to the office. As a fast-growing business I was aware that a totally remote workforce may impede us creating and solidifying our company culture, which is fostered, in the main, by us coming together, engaging in company-wide meetings, and getting to know how each other works. As a value-driven business, when our staff identify with our company values, they’re more likely to engage with their work, and engagement is key in today’s workplace, particularly when we want to attract and retain the best talent.
Our staff are our biggest asset!
Change is often tough, but it can also be very rewarding. The pandemic gave us the opportunity to implement positive changes in our working practices and understand how best to tackle the challenges remote working can have on the business and well-being of our employees.
It’s clear that remote working is here to stay for the immediate future at least. Employers will need to recognise this and adapt their working practices if they want to remain competitive and attract and retain high calibre staff. However, with this comes a responsibility to ensure that remote workers are supported and there are measures and initiatives in place to support their mental health and well-being. Being lonely can be a real struggle for many people and the workplace used to be a safe haven for some. Offering a mixture is a good compromise and solution for many organisations. Awareness weeks such as Mental Health Week can bring this to the forefront so we must all continue to remember and look out for each other, especially in the workplace.
At PHARMExcel we recognise the importance of looking after both the physical and mental health of our staff and strive to create an environment for a happy and healthy work/life balance. Mental Health Awareness week is a great opportunity for us all to reassess our health and well-being especially at work.
The charity MIND does amazing work and can help those suffering – please don’t suffer in silence or let others.
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