Boosting workplace wellbeing by returning to the physical office

As many businesses are slowly returning to their offices after the peak of the COVID pandemic, many others are still operating from the homes of their employees. This could be because the office is not suitable for the return to work guidelines, team members are needing to shield, there are travel restrictions or there is an understandable general anxiety of the overall situation.

The mental health aspect of working from home has bought into focus, the need for employers to safeguard the workplace wellbeing of their employees. Even during the 'old normal' of pre-March 2020, office wellbeing was growing into one of the biggest factors in office design; many firms even introducing specialist facilities solely to boost the mental health of their workforce.

In this blog, we're going to be taking a look at the effects of working from home and how the physical office may be better suited to aid the wellbeing of employees.

What are the mental health effects of working from home?

In June, Nuffield Health released details of their remote working survey that revealed 80% of British workers felt that working from home had a negative impact on their mental health.

The major reason for this was down to them not being in the same physical space as their colleagues; aside from the general camaraderie it brings, many people felt they were unable to take breaks and step away from their work (over a third even felt that they always had to be at their computer to respond to communications quickly). Naturally, this leads to the higher levels of stress and anxiety that many are experiencing at home.

Workplace wellbeing in the modern office

Whilst many people recognised that homeworking was beneficial towards the time and money they didn't spend by not commuting (as well as being able to spend more time with family), a quarter of respondents found that they are finding it difficult to cope with the mental challenges, loneliness and isolation from colleagues it all brings.

Although video and voice calls are undoubtedly proving to be invaluable in linking people together, they are also inadvertently placing more stress on people. As an example, around one-in-five(19%) of those surveyed felt pressured to 'look good' on video calls (while there's no data on how many people are pressured into having a good selection of books to sit in front of during a video call, but we bet it's quite substantial!)

Another major challenge of workplace wellbeing at home seems to be separating domestic and work life. Almost a third of people found it difficult to balance home and working tasks, whilst a quarter reported that they found it harder than usual to switch off at the end of the day/week. With this struggle, it's no real surprise that a third said that home working placed a strain on relationships within the household, both with partners and children.

relaxed breakout area to help boost workplace wellbeing

How can getting people back in the office help mental health?

Taking this survey in mind, here are the ways in which the physical office can help to boost mental health:

  • Creates a divide between the working day and home life. Clearly, the difficulty in balancing home-work life for some will mean that both aspects will bleed into the other. Having set hours for each creates a routine for them to follow; to be aware of when they need to be focused on work and when they need to wind down or perform other domestic tasks. This reassurance that they'll be able to do everything they need will help to clear the mind, lessening the opportunity for anxiety and stress to form.

  • Room to relax. That's right; for a while now, the often-stressful workplace has placed value on the mental health of their employees by introducing areas to aid their workplace wellbeing. It can be easy, what with working at the same desk, in the same environment every day, to grow frustrated and tired. This is why an increasing number of offices have been redesigned to include things like breakout rooms, touchdown zones and even fitness/relaxation suites to boost mental health. As work-home life can be difficult to balance in the home/virtual office, the physical office is able to offer a relaxing haven from the stresses of everyday work.

  • Boosts communication. While the wealth of technology at our disposal is great in allowing us to communicate over long distances,connection issues are bound to occur, often making it difficult to get work done. Communicating in person allows us all to understand what's going on; relaying information instantly to the people that need it.

  • Connect with colleagues. As people are naturally sociable, being in the same physical workspace will help to fill this intrinsic need. When we consider how much of our time is spent at work, it shouldn't be a surprise that many regard it a 'second home' of sorts because, ostensibly, it is. A workplace is a community of different people with the same ambitions and intentions in mind; it's no wonder that many people have missed being part of such a team throughout the lockdown.

Those were some of the ways that a return to work may help workplace wellbeing. Interested in learning more? Perhaps your own business is considering returning to work soon? Then look no further than our office design experts for a complete return-to-work service.

Innovative office design solutions by Oaktree Interiors

Here Oaktree Interiors, we are a vastly experienced office design and build company, having carried out hundreds of fit-out, refurbishment and relocation projects across London and the South East of England.

As a result of our innovative approach to office design, we have established a leading service that has helped many different types and sizes of businesses to better utilise their workplaces. In a post-COVID-19 world, being able to have an inventive, custom office design will no doubt be vital – so please feel free to get in touch with us to learn how we can help to improve your workplacewellbeing.

Give our team a call today on 0345 21 86955 or you can email the team on hello@oaktreeoffice.com

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