Mental Health First Aid Ireland today published the results of its Working From Home Wellbeing Survey. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the largest and quickest mass shift in work patterns globally and in order to understand the effects of this shift on the mental and physical wellbeing of employees, Mental Health First Aid Ireland undertook a national survey with 1,179 respondents who found themselves working from home as a result of the pandemic.
Over half the respondents (57%) said they loved they autonomy of working from home while 34% said they felt more motivated. Some 53% agreed that they felt valued by their employer and almost three quarters (72%) felt trusted by their employers.
However, when asked about their mental wellbeing, the findings depict a workforce with a lot on its mind. Poor sleep and increased fatigue emerged as concerning findings. 40% of respondents reported loss of sleep due to worry and 50% said they experienced more fatigue than usual. 40% of respondents were found to be experiencing poor wellbeing as defined under the WHO-5 Well-Being Index.
The respondents completed the survey between mid-May and mid-June, with 42% describing managing the boundary between work and home life as ‘very difficult’ while nearly half (49%) said that long and irregular hours were a feature of new working from home arrangements with those surveyed saying they worked an average of 9 hours in addition to their contracted hours of work. Despite this, 59% said they are worried about their job security.
Diet and exercise have been impacted with 24% admitting to an increase in alcohol consumption, nearly a third (30%) are eating a less healthy diet and 40% said they are exercising less.
When it came to physical health, almost half of the survey respondents reported aches and pains, especially in the neck (45%), shoulders (41%) and back (45%) compared to their normal physical condition. 41% said they had experienced more eyestrain than usual.
When it comes to getting the job done, 76% of respondents agreed that they had all the information they needed in order to do their job, but 18% said they had not been supplied with a computer by their employer in order to do their job and 90% said that no risk assessment had been carried out.
Speaking about the results of the Mental Health First Aid Ireland Working From Home Wellbeing Survey, Martin Gillick, National Training Co-ordinator for Mental Health First Aid Ireland’s Adult and Workplace programmes said, “Employers repeatedly state that their most important asset is their staff. The results of the survey have shown the challenges that home working and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic present. These challenges, now more than ever, place an onus on all employers to put in place systems that support the wellbeing of staff. These should include both formal and informal supports that foster workplace wellbeing and may include training programmes such as Mental Health First Aid as part of an overarching wellbeing strategy. At the end of the day, a happy and supported workforce is good for business and society.”
Mental Health First Aid Ireland Manager Donal Scanlan said, “The survey results confirm what many commentators have long suspected which is that we are facing into a considerable increase in mental health and wellbeing problems as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. At Mental Health First Aid Ireland we want to help employers support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff. Helping create a workplace culture where mental health can be spoken about openly and with confidence; a workplace community willing and able to respond to the mental health needs of their colleagues. As many people say, ‘It is good to talk about mental health’, but who educates the listeners? That’s where Mental Health First Aid training can help.”
Saint John of God Hospital CEO Emma Balmaine said, “Given that remote working will likely be here to stay in a much more prominent way than before the Covid-19 pandemic, the results from the MHFA Ireland Home working Wellbeing Survey are extremely timely and will assist both employers and home workers to adapt in a healthy and progressive manner to this new way of working. The importance of mental health and wellbeing of employees has been highlighted yet again and it is helpful to have the recommendations from the survey to assist us all to make the best of this new phenomenon.”
In response to the survey results, employers should consider the following:
- Conducting risk assessments to ensure ‘home office’ set-up is safe and ergonomic and encourage employees to be active and take exercise.
- Provide mental health support via both formal and informal means including virtual check-ins, peer to peer support, access to EAPs and ensure regular contact with managers and colleagues is maintained.
- Provide training to a cohort of employees at all levels, that enables them to recognise, engage with, and support colleagues who may be experiencing a mental health difficulty. Mental Health First Aid training would achieve this goal.
- Attention should be paid to identifying and providing focused support to those who may fall into high risk groups e.g. those with financial concerns, eldercare issues, those struggling to adjust and or those prone to feelings of isolation.
- Consider rethinking performance targets and monitoring. Involve employees in decisions about reorganising work and reallocating tasks and priorities.
- Returning to the workplace will be challenging for both employers and employees. Communication and the introduction of return to work protocols and safe systems of work will help reduce the worries and concerns expressed by respondents.