The work-from-home movement has garnered much applause for its flexibility and commute-free model, but new findings suggest people are at risk of feeling less connected to their organization and colleagues, and their mental health is faltering.
The latest Mental Health Index from total wellbeing solutions provider LifeWorks recorded a negative mental-health score among Canadians for the 17th consecutive month, and the highest since the index launched in April 2020.
“When transitioning to a virtual setting during the pandemic, many employees lost the spontaneity of conversations that they may have found invigorating,” noted Stephen Liptrap, president and CEO of LifeWorks. “To ensure a successful return to the workplace, employers should consider innovative ways to lessen feelings of isolation and create a culture free from bias, regardless of work location. “Connections and the social support they offer are important to wellbeing and we need to ensure that this is not lost.”
The monthly survey was conducted online from July 30 to August 5, 2021, with 3,000 respondents in Canada. Seventy-three per cent of respondents said that prior to the pandemic, they felt a sense of belonging and acceptance at work, but only 65 per cent felt the same during the past month.
Meanwhile, 26 per cent of respondents indicated that before the pandemic, they were unsure or did not feel a sense of belonging, compared to 35 per cent feeling the same during the past month.
This trend is seen across all age groups, however, the proportion of employees who report feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance at work increases with older age groups.
The majority of employees (68 per cent) who are working at a job site feel a greater sense of belonging and acceptance at work than those who work from home or in a hybrid workplace. Isolation scores among those working exclusively from home are worse (-9.6) than those working in a hybrid model (-7.6) or from the job site (-7.3).
Employees report working while unwell on weekly basis
More than half of Canadians are also doing their job when feeling unwell at least one day per week. The mental health scores among this group are significantly below those who report never working while feeling unwell.
“We know that when people are feeling unwell, their productivity at work suffers,” said global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing, Paula Allen. “We also have clear data that indicates an organization’s culture of wellbeing and investments in workplace mental health make a difference in the overall health of the workforce.
“As we move forward in the next phase of the pandemic, there will be more change and added strain as a result. This is not the time to ease our focus on employee mental health and wellbeing. The need continues and the productivity risk is significant.”