COVID-19 has transformed work as we once knew it. With employees around the world sent home from as early as March 2020, and intermittent lockdowns continuing up until this year, remote work has become a central part of the pandemic’s ‘new normal’.
For many, working from home has exacerbated mental health difficulties. Depression and anxiety have both increased during this time as balancing the commitments of family and office creates unprecedented stress and challenges.
Now more and more of us are returning to the office. But as they welcome staff back, many workplaces are realising the importance of prioritising well-being. Attitudes are changing, with 80% of workers saying they would consider quitting their current position for one that focused more on mental health.
Today, incorporating well-being into the post-pandemic workplace is a major focus for those companies that understand that happiness, employee retention, and productivity are all intimately connected.
One way that companies are proving their commitment to employee well-being is with the appointment of a mental health manager or ‘mental health champion’. This role is distinct from HR and serves as a point of contact for those who need guidance or assistance when it comes to psychological well-being.
People can go to their mental health manager with questions about resources. The manager might offer access to mental health self-assessment tools or help them to organise free or subsidised counselling, perhaps via video or text.
Normalising Mental Health Struggles
To create a culture of support where people feel comfortable seeking out help, companies need to promote a conversation about mental health.
This means leadership setting an example and talking about their own experiences of things like stress and burnout. Encouraging openness and vulnerability is challenging but incredibly powerful at creating an atmosphere whereby employees feel that they can seek help should they need it.
Reducing the stigma around mental health difficulties is all about creating a safe and supportive work culture. Managers should hold regular check-ins where they discuss how employees are finding their role and what changes could be made to make their job more satisfying.
Similarly, all employees should be taught to recognise the signs that someone is struggling emotionally, learning the best way to reach out, connect with them, and offer support.
Mental Health Workshops
As part of their investment into improved mental health resources for staff, companies might consider organising events related to mental health, further promoting the conversation around wellness while also providing educational content.
For example, they might organise yoga classes, either in person or online. Or seminars where experts are brought in to discuss different ways to tackle stress. Meditation sessions can be hugely beneficial for workers while creativity workshops are also another option.
A Commitment to Flexibility
The majority of workers returning to the office post-pandemic want a more flexible and hybrid model of working with 3 out of 4 voting for a mix of office-based and remote work.
For women, this is an even bigger priority. This demographic had it particularly tough during the pandemic, trying to balance childcare with professional commitments and struggling with the lack of physical demarcation between roles. According to a report by Deloitte, 23% of women are considering not returning to the office, citing lack of work-life balance as the main reason.
To retain these valuable employees, companies need to prioritise flexible working models and help them define clear boundaries between work and home.
Optimising the Office for Well-Being
Finally, it’s important not to forget about the physical conditions necessary for well-being. Our environment has a huge impact on our happiness and thinking about space, layout, and aesthetics in office design is essential.
This means considering things such as light quality and colours. Poor lighting can cause headaches, eye strain, and tiredness, all of which contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression. Access to natural light is essential for concentration and serotonin levels while colours such as green and blue have been shown to increase positivity.
Meanwhile, indoor plants have been found to boost mood and reduce stress and blood pressure. Access to patios, balconies, and gardens also boosts employee well-being as spending time outdoors is found to be key to psychological health.
In terms of layout, open plan offices can actually be detrimental to well-being due to the increased distraction and noise. Instead, focus on creating diverse spaces for different situations, from collaboration zones to relaxation and play areas to private booths for quiet time.
Movable partitions allow for flexibility while acoustic panels help with issues of noise. Companies should also promote spaces for communal gatherings to counteract the well-documented isolation and loneliness suffered during lockdown.
Finally, a workplace should be tidy and well-ordered. Research has found that clutter increases stress. Good organisation of documents and files helps to create a calm environment—one conducive to both mental well-being and productivity.
Feeling Good Boosts Productivity and Employee Engagement
Prioritising mental health at work is all about paying attention to employee needs and making sure you are thinking in a holistic way, considering their emotional well-being as much as their professional success.
A key way that companies can boost mental health at work is with greater flexibility and better-designed workspaces. At Principled, we understand that what you require from your office may vary from month to month, and that it might even be necessary to move location.
In addition to Principled’s gold standard void rates mitigation service, we also offer a secure and convenient document storage service, allowing you to store, digitise and safely dispose of documents, all in a compliant and secure manner. The result? Less paperwork and a clutter-free environment. What’s more, should you need to up sticks and move, or simply downsize, we’re here to store your document archive in our secure premises.