itecopeople blog
Posted on November 19, 2021  in General
The return to the office

What impact does it have on employees’ mental health and wellbeing?

As employees return to their workplaces after a considerable period of working from home, new data on how returning to the office impacts mental health is being published daily.
As employers and employees navigate the difficult route of remote, hybrid, and office work, it’s clear that the priorities and needs of the workforce is changing rapidly. But what are the positives and negatives of returning to the office? How will this affect employee wellbeing? And how will this affect IT and recruitment departments?
 
The positive implications of returning to the office
For many, the green light given by the government to return to the office was a relief. Some employees found that working from home led to increased stress and burnout, something also reported by PWC employees in an article published by The HR Consultants. On the other end of the spectrum, in figures collected by Unispace and published by HR News, 41% of employees feel more productive in the workplace than at home. A return to the office for some, therefore, will please both them and their employers.
Another positive of returning to the workplace is increased socialisation. In a survey conducted by Reef, 21% of people looking for work identify socialisation opportunities as a key factor when applying for a role. This is particularly prevalent for younger individuals, those aged 35 and under, the demographic that was hit the most severely by furlough and redundancies at the beginning of lockdown.
However, not all employees see increased socialisation as a positive, and employers will therefore need to navigate conflicting attitudes to returning to shared office spaces.
 
The negative implications of returning to the office
Whilst some are looking forward to increased socialisation, for others, this brings heightened anxiety and uncertainty. Referring to a study conducted by Kastus and reported by TechRound, whilst 84% of employees believe that their employer cares about their health and safety, 78% are worried about the health and safety risks in the office, and only 66% of employees are somewhat confident about their health and safety in the workplace.
Furthermore, 67% of employees from the UK and Ireland, as reported by HR News, are reluctant to return to the office. HR News also found that the commute and the increased expenses linked to working in an office are employees’ biggest deterrents for returning to their previous workspaces. With this information, it raises questions about how employers move forward and what steps recruiters will need to take in future to maintain the health and wellbeing of their organisation.
 
 
 
The effect on recruitment
As we’ve discussed before, employers will be expected to take a greater interest in their employees’ preferred working methods if they want to attract new staff and keep their workforce.
One of the topics that recruiters will need to consider is the organisation of their working spaces. In the figures shared by HR News, an alarming 93% of UK and Irish office workers would make changes to their current working layouts and make space for more private spaces and amenities.
HR and recruitment teams will also be expected to place increased importance on employee mental health and wellbeing with a genuine focus on wellbeing and psychological support if businesses want to attract and retain the best people going forward.
Staff wellbeing, therefore, will be a particularly prevalent topic as more return to the office, and employers will need to create new opportunities and methods for their staff to communicate with them. TechRound have suggested different coloured wristbands, which can quickly and non-verbally communicate an employee’s anxiety about reduced social distancing in the workplace.
What’s also clear, however, is that all departments will have a role to play in making the workplace safe and reducing workplace anxiety.
 
The effect of IT
IT departments could be more important for employee wellbeing than employers may think.
With cyber attacks more commonplace, and increasingly difficult to monitor due to hybrid working, IT departments also have a responsibility to keep the workforce safe.
Furthermore, hygiene innovator Kastus found that 80% of employees hold concerns over the safety and hygiene of touch screen monitors. Furthermore, an increase in shared workspaces, as people use the office on different days, may also increase anxiety about the sanitisation of shared spaces. It will be up to IT staff to find safe, sustainable techniques to keep technology clean, both on their surfaces and in their hardware.
It’s clear going forward that health and safety concerns and mental health will be two of the major topics that employers will need to place importance on going forward.
If you’re an employer implementing new strategies, we’d love to hear from you! Get in contact to let us know your thoughts.


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