When the pandemic hit in March, the shift to remote work quickly became a defining feature of 2020. According to Stats Canada, the number of Canadians working remotely across all sectors jumped from 10% (as reported in 2018) to 40% (as of May 2020)2 – a direct result of COVID-19. This number is even higher when looking only at office workers, and according to a study by the Angus Reid Institute conducted in June, the vast majority (64%) of Canadians working from home expect that their post pandemic work arrangements will include a shift to more flexible work arrangements.
Needless to say, the change in our workforce has been drastic. Employers were pushed to make quick adjustments to this new way of working. Now, six months later, we have a clearer understanding of how remote work affects employee wellbeing, particularly their mental health. As with most things, it comes with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
It’s easy to see how remote work may be beneficial for employee mental health. No sitting in traffic or squeezing onto an overcrowded bus – and no commute can mean more sleep or more time spent with family, and less money spent on gas, parking and transit passes.
Remote work gives employees some of their time and money back. It allows people the flexibility to work when it suits them, and gives them a sense of freedom to pepper in other tasks throughout their day, like laundry, exercise and grocery shopping4. Ultimately, when someone has more autonomy and control over their schedule, they feel empowered. And a sense of empowerment goes a long way to positively impact our emotional wellbeing.
Check out this list to better understand 5 ways remote work can benefit mental health:
Remote work is by no means free from drawbacks. First and foremost: it isn’t for everyone. Working from home requires someone to be self-directed, comfortable with technology and have a defined home office space.4 The perks of working in pajama bottoms can be quickly offset by the frustration of needing to work on your kitchen island, as your roommate prepares a three course lunch in their pajama bottoms! As the pandemic forced the closure of daycares and schools, many employees struggled to juggle childcare, homeschooling and work.
We have complied the following list of 5 potential disadvantages of remote work on employee mental health, along with some tips for employers:
Everyone differs in their social needs and ability to feel connected. And our ability to feel connection is vital for our mental health—we’re social beings, after all!
More importantly, the pandemic required the need for remote work, forcing those to make the adjustment even if their living situation (house vs. studio apartment, children at home etc.) made it difficult to navigate.
Fortunately, there are ways to counteract some of the negative effects of remote working, in order to create a healthier working environment. For more information on any of the tips and resources listed above, email HRTopics@excelHR.com.