• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Remote working improves efficiency at the detriment of mental health – experts

Internet outage frustrates remote workers

Organisations and employees were forced to suddenly adopt full-time remote working as the Covid-19 pandemic intensified. While it decreased commute times and resulted in higher productivity for some employees, the hours of digital meetings made maintaining a work-life balance more challenging than ever before, according to experts.

Jiten Vyas, regional group chief operating officer, VFS Global, which provides outsourcing and technology services for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide said prior to the pandemic, creating a work-life balance, financial uncertainty and job security were major issues of concern, however, this has changed post-pandemic.

“In the last 18 months, mental health became the focus of most employee wellbeing conversations as remote workers follow a routine while being confined to the walls of their homes, furthermore, they have to battle with various issues which intensify mental health struggles,” he said.

Vyas noted that burnout, anxiety, and a feeling of isolation, if not handled at the right time in the right manner can snowball into more serious, long-term consequences that are harmful not just to the employee but organizations as well.

He said that employees are no longer associating long work hours with success, adding that with hybrid work models becoming a part of the new normal, it has become imperative that organizations have a more holistic approach to employee wellness, and not evaluate corporate wellness programs solely by their return on investment (ROI).

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A recent analysis by Deloitte on the stock performance of the S&P 500 Index companies found that the companies that scored high on health and wellness, appreciated 135 percent compared to its peers.

Hence, Vyas added that businesses ought to look into the changing paradigm of how they view workforce productivity and create a resilient workplace, one that places mental health at the core of it.

As a recommendation, Vyas said that in dealing with the stress of remote working, organizations need to reassure employees of unwavering support while they intensify efforts to safeguard their employees’ mental health needs with the active participation of top management.

“Firms can adopt a company-wide mental health strategy to raise awareness and work towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health discussions, HR heads should encourage free communication, allow longer breaks and come up with creative ways to hold engaging meetings and events while adopting the use of technology to understand employee health better,” he said.

He stated that at VFS Global, the Wellness Wednesdays initiative was implemented where employees received fortnightly newsletters with information and emphasis on stress Management, hydration, sleep, mindfulness, self-care, walking, health & safety, and mental health.

This, he said, was supported with an activity called Walky Talky, where employees went on a 15-minute walk with a colleague or friend to check on each other.

Vyas also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted mental health but it also gives organizations the opportunity to redefine the success of their human capital initiatives as well as the way employees work and live.