How Remote Work Is Exacerbating the Wellbeing Crisis
Mental health disorders are among the most burdensome public health concerns, even more so since the pandemic turbocharged the wellbeing crisis. As a result, wellbeing issues have become matters of worker health and safety. Why is remote work exacerbating the wellbeing crisis?
Remote workers report negative mental health impacts
Well, according to data from the National Centre for Social Research and the American Psychiatric Association, there’s a clear link between working from home and increased levels of loneliness and mental distress. That includes isolation and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, workers are also saying that their employers aren’t doing enough to help, as remote work keeps exacerbating the wellbeing crisis. Again, according to the American Psychiatric Association, only one in five employees report that their organizations have offered additional mental health services.
What’s more, the number of employees who say they can talk openly about their mental health with coworkers and supervisors has also declined – an ominous sign of the re-stigmatization of mental health issues in the workplace.
That’s as surveys show steep rises in working-age adults suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders. In the US, for instance, the number of adults suffering from anxiety rose from 31 per cent to 37 per cent.
Rates of depression rose just as significantly in Australia – up ten per cent since COVID began, according to OECD data. Studies point to the same phenomenon in Europe, as well.
Remote work challenges to monitoring worker mental health
Besides isolating workers from one another, remote work also presents a challenge for employers seeking to track the mental health and wellbeing of their workers. Which, after all, is the employer’s obligation per duty of care.
In many jurisdictions, workplace health and safety will encompass psychological as well as physical wellbeing. Aspects of work that have the potential to cause psychological harm must, therefore, be addressed by employers. Some notable hazards include:
- Mental stress
- Remote or isolate work
- Workplace change
The question then turns to, in light of remote work exacerbating the wellbeing crisis, how can employers overcome challenges and comply with their duty of care obligations? A strategy shift is in order.
Strategies to overcome the impact of remote work on mental health and wellbeing
Indeed, employers will first have to acknowledge the problem – remote work might confer business efficiency. But there will be countervailing forces.
After recognizing that fact, employers will be in a better position to pursue protective measures to maximize worker resilience and improve wellbeing. Such measures might include:
- Building an organizational culture of flexibility on where, when, and how work is performed
- Ensure senior staff is engaged in mental health promotion
- If senior staff lacks the requisite skills, source leadership training opportunities
- Implement workplace mental-health-promotion opportunities
So that issues don’t fall the through the cracks, employers will also have to promote and facilitate early help-seeking strategies, particularly for remote workers. Strategies, here, might include:
- Conducting wellness checks
- Ensuring existing programs and policies relating to workplace trauma responses use evidence-based methods
- Supporting partial sickness absence and workers on return-to-work
Nor can employers afford to belabor the compliance issue. Here, digital wellbeing software comes in handy, cutting down the time needed to implement best-practice wellbeing programs for remote workers and monitor their follow through. Not sure what capabilities matter as remote work exacerbates the wellbeing crisis, download our buyer’s guide to wellbeing management software to find out.