The Real Cost Of The ‘Flexi-Fallout’ On Employee Mental Health

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The Real Cost Of The ‘Flexi-Fallout’ On Employee Mental Health

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Post-COVID, hybrid working arrangements have become the new norm, with 63 percent of full-time employees working flexibly.

But for many employees, there is a growing concern that working-from-home arrangements are being phased out by some employers, which is causing a change in workplace mindset and will likely cause an increase in flexible working requests under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023.

Here’s what employers can do to help workers tackle changing workplace policies to protect their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Assess the impact of the ‘flexi-fallout’

Insisting that employees return to the workplace may seem like it will increase productivity and boost results, but this is not a guarantee and may have the opposite effect.

Removing flexible working options can negatively impact workers, as the cost and time-consuming process of commuting and complicating work-life balance can cause dissatisfaction with work, a decline in productivity, and eventually, burnout.

While onsite work can increase face-to-face interaction and promote employee interaction, a survey found that 65 percent of hybrid workers are more productive, and 59 percent also report improved job satisfaction.

Evaluating how a shift to onsite work will affect your employees, their emotional wellbeing, and productivity will help you assess whether it will have enough of an impact to warrant the change.

Discuss the topic with workers to gauge their opinions on the value of flexible working and make sure you can justify the reasons for returning to the workplace before you make a decision.

Often the best results can be gained by finding a balance that works for both employers and employees.

Emphasise the benefits

Fostering a healthy culture and outlook among employees is essential for facilitating a smooth transition back to the workplace and preventing a flexi-fallout.

Modelling the advantages will help foster a more welcoming culture that will help employees feel supported and more motivated to return to the workplace.

Taking a punitive approach can alienate workers, increase work dissatisfaction, and could cause ultimately them to quit.

Explain why you have decided that workers should return to working onsite and emphasise the benefits, such as more social interaction and boosted camaraderie among colleagues for better teamwork, collaboration, and creativity.

Many believe that in-person work and face-to-face interaction can establish a sense of belonging for employees which can foster a healthy company culture and enhance creativity and productivity.

The onsite environment can provide access to resources and infrastructure that may not be available at home which can facilitate more efficient workflows.

Working in a shared physical space can also enable spontaneous interactions and ideas that can improve problem-solving and alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness often felt by remote workers.

A recent report found that 84 percent of onsite workers feel they are close to their colleagues compared to just 44 percent of homeworkers.

Foster a healthy and inclusive workplace culture

Employers have a responsibility to cultivate a workplace environment that prioritises the wellbeing of the workforce.

The key to achieving this is through establishing open communication channels and emphasizing the importance of a work-life balance.

A report revealed that 87 percent of employees agree that a toxic workplace has harmed their mental health, and 61 percent have resigned from a job due to workplace culture issues.

Ensuring that employees feel comfortable enough to raise concerns will help to establish a more comfortable work atmosphere but also cultivate trust and loyalty among the team.

Reminding workers of the importance of work-life balance will help managers and employees alike recognise the role their personal lives play in job satisfaction, productivity, and overall happiness.

41 percent of surveyed workers stated that they were attracted to their current role because of a strong work-life balance more than their salary.

Respecting worker’s boundaries and supporting their wellbeing will likely reduce burnout and turnover.

Provide the right support for struggling employees

Grappling with changing work policies can be difficult for employees, but making workplace support and resources available can help support them during a transition.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help workers manage personal or work-related challenges that can impact their performance or health and wellbeing by providing counselling and professional resources.

EAPs can promote employee wellbeing, reduce absenteeism, and enhance productivity at work which benefits employers and workers.

Other support avenues include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which offers sessions with a professional who provides practical tools and advice about coping with stress, anxiety, and mental health concerns that can be exacerbated by workplace changes.

Employers and workers can also complete emotional literacy training to develop the skills necessary to navigate interpersonal dynamics and foster resilience and healthier communication to avoid workplace conflict.

Access to these resources can be facilitated through frequent communication, training sessions, and integrating them into existing benefits packages.

By investing in these initiatives, employers can mitigate the negative impacts of shifting policies while cultivating a supported and resilient workforce.

By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Mental Wellbeing at Nuffield Health

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The Real Cost Of The ‘Flexi-Fallout’ On Employee Mental Health

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