This year has seen the majority of the world having to work from home as we try to navigate the ongoing pandemic.
And as cases in the UK continue to rise, it is unlikely we will be returning to the office or any kind of ‘normality’ anytime soon.
For many people, this means social interaction is drastically reduced and if you couple this with the shorter days and colder weather, some may feel the effects on their mental health. Around 2 million people in the UK suffer from seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD), a type of depression that occurs in a seasonal pattern and is more severe in the winter months. Symptoms include a persistent low mood, irritability, feeling lethargic, and a loss of pleasure in usual everyday activities.
With many people cut off from social contact, these feelings may be enhanced. NerdWallet has compiled some tips to help companies promote their employees’ wellbeing during these trying times:
Encourage social interaction among employees
As we continue to work from home, many may have noticed a decline in social interactions with colleagues. Feeling isolated and lonely can have a huge effect on an employee’s mental wellbeing, therefore, it’s important employers encourage social conversations with colleagues while at work to help combat this.
This could include using technologies such as Zoom or Google Hangouts to organise a virtual pub quiz or even scheduling a time each week for colleagues to have an informal chat.
Promote mental health in the workplace
Mental health is an important, yet also a very sensitive topic, that many employees may not feel comfortable sharing with their employers. Not only is it important to offer adequate support, but employers must ensure their staff are aware of the resources available and encourage them to access help if needed.
2020 has been a difficult year and many companies have been faced with more pressure than usual. Particularly those suffering from SAD or other mental health concerns may struggle with additional stress or work. It’s crucial employers listen to their staff’s concerns and offer solutions to help alleviate some of the stress.
Encourage regular breaks and fresh air
Reduced exposure to sunlight can lead to lower serotonin levels, a hormone that affects your mood. Employers should motivate employees to step away from their screen and go outside for some fresh air, for example, a short walk during lunch, or even before starting work, as this can help increase energy levels. Particularly now that the clocks have been set back and it gets dark earlier in the afternoon, encourage staff to take breaks during work hours to make the most of the daylight.
But it’s not just fresh air that’s important. Ensuring employees are working in a well-lit space with suitable equipment further helps employee wellbeing.
Separate work from home-life
Of course, working at home can make it hard to set boundaries and employees may feel inclined to work through lunch or stay late, seeing as their laptop is ‘just there’. Simple steps such as implementing a cut-off point or even prohibiting meetings to be scheduled during lunch can help create boundaries.
Employers should motivate their staff to work their contracted hours and not feel the need to work excessive overtime. It’s important to fully switch off after work; taking a step back and spending the evening doing activities you enjoy can help staff recharge for the next day.
It has been a difficult year and it looks like we still have a long way to go until we can return to some kind of normality. Employers must continue to put their employees’ wellbeing first and ensure adequate support is available. Simple steps such as encouraging staff to go outside, work in well-lit environments, as well as organising informal chats during the week can promote wellbeing and help fight the feeling of loneliness.
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