New research says that working from home increases stress levels but the reality is far more complex. Every employee will have their own individual approach to working outside the traditional office space and different ways of coping with the change.

Some will be more relaxed and more productive when working from home, perhaps due to an easier work-life balance with no lengthy commute or rushed journeys to childcare. Others will feel more settled and productive in a structured office environment with a stricter routine where they are surrounded by colleagues. These individuals may find the fluid nature of home working stressful and too much of a distraction.

Businesses must establish effective solutions in order to assess and minimise any negative impact on their team’s health and wellbeing, starting by identifying which employees need extra support and implementing solutions in kind.

Excessive Workloads

While we can and must address the issue of stress when working from home with a wider perspective, we also have more pressing issues to deal with. After more than 18 months of working from home since COVID-19 hit, research shows that the current UK workforce is seriously struggling.

The seventh edition of The Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey conducted earlier this year shows that one in three UK employees are working longer hours and suffering ‘unmanageable stress’ levels away from the office due to excessive workloads. A lack of routine and the extra time from non-commuting were cited as key reasons that contributed to longer hours and higher stress.

Establishing a Support System

Even prior to COVID-19, mental health was one of the most common reasons for workplace absenteeism. Cases of stress, anxiety and depression are even harder to recognise and treat when employees are working remotely.

There are a number of ways that employees can reduce stress when working from home, all based on setting strict boundaries between personal and working lives. The NHS offers 7 simple steps to support mental wellbeing and motivation, including establishing a dedicated workspace away from people and distractions, scheduling regular breaks and setting boundaries with other family members.  These will all help to improve focus and motivation, reduce stress, and reduce the risk of working excessively long hours.

Prevention and Cure

From the employer’s perspective, there are a number of ways to deal with this challenge. We would advise a two-pronged approach, tackling the issues from both a prevention and cure point of view. Businesses should put solutions in place to make sure that employees can access a support system from the very first sign of a problem.

Employers are beginning on a good note as the Cigna research also showed that UK staff rank their mental health the highest when considering issues important to their overall ‘Whole Health’. Dr. Peter Mills, associate medical director at Cigna Europe, explains that elements including work-life balance and access to care are integral to the Whole Health concept, where employers must consider all components that come together to contribute to an employee’s health and wellbeing. As Mills says: “Difficulty in any one of these areas can have an immediate knock-on effect on a person’s Whole Health.”

Starting Strong

As such, employers need to respond with comprehensive health and wellbeing cover. The preventative and early intervention services included with many group risk and private medical insurance policies can change the game when it comes to the impact of mental health issues on the individual and the wider business. There is instant reassurance that comes with having a support system in the place – this will help employees to feel less daunted when symptoms arise and more confident about asking for help.

Early intervention services might include unlimited direct access to specialist advice from mental health professionals, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and counselling sessions, as well as GP video consultations arranged within 24 hours. Some insurers also offer support in their standard packages designed to encourage healthier habits from those suffering with their mental wellbeing, such as rewards for physical activity in recognition of its positive impact on our minds.

With mental health issues increasing all the time and lengthy NHS waiting lists meaning those without cover must wait an untenable amount of time to access support, private mental health insurance is fast becoming the most worthwhile benefit of all.  For advice and support with choosing the right package for your team, contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.