WHAT’S THE ISSUE?
Away from concerns over productivity and corporate culture, the mental health of employees working alone at home is one of the key issues which might leave people wanting to get back to the office.
It’s a real concern, particularly amongst younger people whose social lives often revolve around their workplace and work colleagues, and will often learn by observing more experienced colleagues, something they can’t do at home.
Dr Yasuhiro Kotera joins The Agenda with Stephen Cole to outline the mental upsides and downsides of working from home.
MEET THE EXPERTS
Dr Yasuhiro Kotera is the Academic Lead in Counselling, Psychotherapy and Psychology at the University of Derby.
An accredited counsellor/psychotherapist, his research areas include occupational mental health, positive psychology for mental health, organisational applications of coaching/neuro-linguistic programming, and cross-cultural comparison
He is also says he’s currently managing to work from home successfully despite recently becoming the father of a set of triplets.
WHAT DOES KOTERA SAY?
“What's unique at this time is that employees are forced to work from home.” Dr Kotera tells Stephen: “That leads to a heightened level of stress, loneliness, depression and anxiety - substance abuse has been increasing too.”.
And constant video conferencing isn’t really helping with the rise of what’s becoming known as “Zoom fatigue”. “Humans are naturally adapted to face to face, in person communication,” he says “In real conversations you hear the person you're talking to say “Yeah”, or showing facial expressions, those kind of things that are very limited in video conference meetings, and ghat creates stress at an unconscious level.”
But, he says – there are some simple things companies can do to ensure their employees working from home don’t spiral downwards: “Some innovative companies are taking this as an opportunity to create trust, workplace trust - “and trust from employees to the company is really, really important to maintain long lasting high work performance. So for example,one company in The Netherlands, for example, are sending vegetables and fruits to their home regularly, to show they care about an employee’s wellbeing.”
THE KEY QUOTE
“Companies should be aware of the highest stress levels employees are going through now.”
The big issue for Dr Kotera is that there are some issues around working from home which are essentially unable to be resolved.
“About a third of adult communication consists of informal chit chat, which leads to more connection with colleagues and also feeling safe in the workplace.”
He says – but those water cooler moments are difficult, if not impossible to recreate when working from home. But, he adds that may not be too much of a problem for an employer: “What's interesting is that this office chitchat could could hinder our cognitive concentration, which may actually affect workplace performance.”
ALSO ON THE AGENDA:
- Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics explains how working from home, pandemic or no pandemic, can save employees three of their most precious commodities – their time, their money and even their sanity. https://youtu.be/bYaR6_aUpOM
- Dr Heejung Chung from the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent explains how there could be real benefits to the new working normal, especially in bridging the gender pay and opportunities gap. https://youtu.be/NMleq4EIWgs
- And we consider the future for that halfway house between the office and our homes – the flexible co-working space as Stephen talks to Mathieu Proust, the General Manager for the UK, Ireland and emerging markets at WeWork. https://youtu.be/mqC-neiq920
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