A study by a recruitment firm has found that 37 per cent of workers want employers to maintain flexible working post-pandemic to safeguard mental health.
The report by Michael Page reveals that the freedom afforded by remote working during the pandemic has led to heightened anxiety around a potential return to ‘normality’.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, Michael Page is highlighting the potential ramifications of slipping back into old ways of working. A quarter of workers (25 per cent) expressed anxiety about a return to the workplace.
Maintaining flexible working conditions was the most popular option for workers when asked how employers could safeguard their mental health, with more than a third (37 per cent) stating it was the most important thing to them ahead of a return to work, while a quarter (26 per cent) would like to see more investment made in mental health policies and resources for employees.
The study highlighted the importance of leaders having conversations with staff about how they are feeling as the UK transitions out of the pandemic. More than a quarter of workers (28 per cent) want their employer to encourage open conversations about mental health.
This is especially pertinent given the often-conflicting views that may exist within workforces. The study suggests that it may be hard for employers to keep everyone happy, with contradictory views showing that 26 per cent of workers think a change to working patterns has negatively affected their mental health, yet 30 per cent of workers also feel positive about being able to work from home.
Sheri Hughes, D&I director at Michael Page said: “Our findings highlight how the UK’s mental health has been impacted at work by this unprecedented year. The world of work was transformed overnight, and it is understandable that some feel anxious about returning to ‘normality’. What is clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, which highlights the importance of flexibility.
“We therefore urge both workers and employers to approach the return to the office with an open mind and encourage dialogue both ways. It is important that workers are able to safeguard their mental health as we move out of the pandemic and that employers feel empowered to have conversations with staff about how best to manage the transition.”
Some recommendations from the research include polling the workforce “to get a thorough understanding of what is important to your staff”. Some employees will have childcare needs, others will want to allocate time for the gym or other hobbies and, through engaging with them, trends can be identified and plans can be implemented accordingly.
Employers could also consider opportunities to “refresh some of the skills which may be needed in the office setting” through training initiatives.
Many staff members may have become accustomed to operating in a silo during the pandemic so easing them back into a communal office environment and keeping an open dialogue about the process, is recommended according to the report.
All figures are from Opinium. The total sample size was 2,008 UK adults. Fieldwork was carried out between April 30th-May 4th 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted to be nationally representative.