The health and wellbeing impact of working from home

Last year’s pivot to working from home came as a huge personal relief, as it will have done to many others out there. Amongst the chaos of finding a space in my bedroom for all my office paraphernalia, I even felt some tentative excitement – and I genuinely couldn’t envision any drawbacks. How wrong I was!

Sure enough, all was well at first. Coordinating research projects from the comfort of my own home was no problem, surveys could be rolled out online, interviews, team meetings and briefings attended virtually. I never had a problem with productivity – staying busy and in touch with my team kept me motivated.

But this honeymoon period didn’t last. Fast-forward 15 months, and my enthusiasm for home-working – or rather, for working in the corner of another room –  has considerably waned. The days seem to roll into one, it’s harder to switch off, and the constant bombardment of harrowing footage from across the world, with little to buffer it, has taken its toll. 

And I’m not alone. A poll by the Royal Society for Public Health, looking at the mental health impact of home-working during the pandemic, revealed that 67% of people feel less connected to their colleagues, and over half found it more difficult to switch off. Most worryingly, only a third of their respondents report having been offered support for their mental health from their employer. 

Undoubtedly, there are many benefits to flexible and home-working when managed effectively; indeed, this same poll found that 45% of people felt working from home was better for their mental health. We IT workers should remember how fortunate we are, too. Home working is a privilege not available to everyone, thinking particularly of those on the frontline. 

And whilst there may be stark differences in experience across different groups of people, this obviously should not be used as a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Home-working is here to stay, in some capacity. The question that should be on everyone’s mind is how will your employer support your mental health through this transition?

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