23rd March 2021 marks one year since Boris Johnson announced the first Covid-19 lockdown in the UK and ordered people to stay at home. At the time, the Prime Minister said he was confident the country could turn the tide of coronavirus in 12 weeks, but after a year of lockdowns, bubbles and tiers, the UK’s workforces are still working from what were supposed to be temporary home offices.
Upheaval from bustling offices to isolated homes has had significant effects, both positive and negative, on employee wellbeing across the country. Workplace wellness expert and author, Jason Brennan, says that employers must work alongside their employees and use lessons learnt over the last year to healthily blend remote and office working practices and promote employee wellbeing.
Jason Brennan, Director of Leadership and Wellness at Wrkit, said: “Working from home has impacted everyone uniquely, but it certainly has impacted everybody in some way, be it psychologically, emotionally, physically or a combination of all three. Some employees have embraced elements of the new remote working lifestyle such as enjoying longer in bed, saving on average two hours a day on the commute and spending extra time at home with family.
“On the other hand, many have struggled with inefficient workspaces and extended periods of isolation from friends, family and colleagues which can lead to mental health issues.”
“When workforces were sent home this time last year, I and others in the field did not expect how much staff would genuinely ‘show up’ and show how hard they would work while not in the office. The high productivity levels, the ownership and the responsibility that staff have shown has been a revelation for many managers.
“Despite this, we have seen self-management and focus on work cause some employees to develop a variety of unhealthy behaviours. Many employees have neglected their usual routine which may include walking on the commute and decent lunchtime breaks. The Irish Heart Foundation has found that over half of Irish home workers are sitting down for an extra three hours a day.
“Last March, we imagined that the impact of lockdowns would ease over time as we curbed the virus, but the constant opening and closing of lockdowns has created continual levels of uncertainty and stress. This has been emotionally draining and a focus on employee wellbeing has become as, if not more, essential than it was in the early days of the first lockdown.”
“Employees have been introduced to the valid option of working from home and indeed working from anywhere they want. This will encourage more dialogue between employer and employee regarding what is possible in terms of where and when people work. With more options and flexibility than was thought possible pre-pandemic, I expect to see a rising trend of people taking more care of their work-life balance and workplace wellness.
“Managers and leaders have now experienced remote leadership for a sustained period and have insight into the benefits and challenges of this style of leadership. Lessons they have learnt when working at home during the pandemic, such as the importance of regular personal and professional contact with staff, will support their leadership success if some team members choose to continue to work remotely.
“The pandemic and working from home have inspired some businesses to give their teams wellbeing budgets to invest in home office improvements or virtual wellbeing and social sessions. This will have shown these businesses the benefits of investing in employee wellbeing and I hope to see this trend continued as offices reopen so that employers can offer their staff benefits packages which genuinely and deeply support their wellbeing.”