Lockdown has been an unusual experience for all us and having to adapt to this new way of life and for most of us that meant working from home.
Firstly, like many of us, we found ways to deal with the shock of what was happening around us and how this was going to impact us. We made the swift changes, to deal with it and adapted to the new social norms.
Secondly, on top of that were the mixture of emotions from fear, uncertainty, anxiety to stress that most people were dealing with while adapting to the lockdown and Covid and the loss of normality.
However, people got on with it and within a week, most employees were working from home and maintaining a work persona in this chaos as all normal work and daily activities were disrupted. Most people had to keep things going for themselves, their families and their work and for many, that included, juggling home schooling, taking care of loved ones or dealing with grief and loss of loved ones.
For this article, I will consider how all this impacted the wellbeing of those having to work from home as research from a recent workplace wellbeing report states that 58% of employees said that their emotional wellbeing has been negatively affected in 2020.
This percentage is higher if we take into consideration, those who are self-employed and have their own businesses and the impact of this lockdown on their mental and emotional wellbeing.
For this blog, I am going to focus on employees from a workplace, working from home and will review some of the challenges faced by those and then review the consequences of this on their wellbeing.
In a recent 2020 workplace wellbeing report from it has been estimated that:
40% of employees said that maintaining emotional wellbeing to avoid anxiety has been a challenge of working from home
35% of employees were facing the new challenge of burnout due to balancing their work and life needs
36% of employees feel less connected to their work colleagues
32% feel lonelier and isolated
Therefore, let’s review some of the challenges faced by employees working from home in lockdown and the new causes of work-related stress in our current work climate:
- adapting and working in the confines of their home space without the structure of their normal work environment.
- not leaving the house and having the commute which was a way for employees to prepare for work, to perform and to be productive. Then coming home was a way of decompressing and disengaging from work stress before getting home.
- not going out to work means people are now going from bed, kitchen to desk and repeat. When people went out to work, they not only moved their body but they changed their state physically and emotionally into a more productive state.
- sitting for longer periods of time in adapted home work spaces which was not designed for their bodies like their ergonomic workplace space to work long hours.
- dealing with online/ techie issues and challenges and having to do online meetings and communication and not having in person communication.
- working in isolation and lack of social contact or in person connections with other work colleagues where they would have confided with each other and have support.
- increased work demands and higher expectations on employees to perform and be productive as usual despite the fact of having to deal with their own personal stress of working from home, dealing with home life and the impact of lockdown.
- uncertainty of job security, placing higher expectations and increased work demands on employees and maybe for less pay.
- dealing with being furloughed or job loss and then having to find a new job with few job opportunities.
- increase in late night work culture which is placing peer pressure on other work colleagues to do the same.
- some managers are seeing this current wellbeing of employees as the new normal.
- this is keeping employees in an aroused state which means in a constant state of stress
- the monotony and tedium of working at home as don’t have the normal work interactions that make a day more varied or having their outlets of leisure after work or at the weekend
- in lockdown there was increased work effort – reward imbalance as people were not able to do the things they enjoy to reward themselves and to offload their work stress.
What are the consequences of this on the employee?
The employee has experienced increased work-related stress and anxiety, affecting their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. However, each person will react differently to this stress of working from home depending on their personality and how they respond to stress and how well they manage their emotions in this new situation of lockdown. Here are some the consequences of lockdown working from home related stress for the employee which include:
- being in a constant state of arousal of stress and worry
- feeling anxious or depressed
- not switching off properly for rest and recharge
- a work and life imbalance as the boundaries blur
- not coping with workload and feeling overwhelmed with the increased work demands
- feeling tired and jaded and for some burnout
- having trouble sleeping, going to bed later
- not being able to focus as easily distracted with heavy use of digital media for work and leisure
- not as productive and affecting work performance
- difficulty in concentrating on work, remembering things and making mistakes
- lack of motivation or commitment to work
- increased aches and tension in the body as less movement and headaches from too much screen time
- comfort eating and increase caffeine, drink and smoke intake
- social withdraw and affecting relationships at work, increasing loneliness
- feeling irritated or having a short temper with others
- lack of control of work activities and of job
In conclusion, it is clear that with the pressures and demands of lockdown and working from home, has increased employee’s stress and anxiety and companies will need to address this and put more measures in place to help their employees manage their stress and improve their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing to prevent burnout and loss of valuable staff. This will not only benefit the employees but it will benefit the future of the company.