High stress levels reported by homeworkers

Stephanie Byrne-Roche

May 19 2020

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LinkedIn recently carried out a survey on Irish workers which threw up some concerning results.

In recent months, thousands of workers have joined the remote workforce to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The issue is that many of them are now experiencing rising stress levels as they struggle to maintain a boundary between home and work life.

So, what does this mean for employers?

Employer concerns

Of particular concern from an employer’s point of view is the finding that employees are putting in as much as 38 extra hours of work per month during the lockdown. Whether employees work on-site or from home, Irish businesses must still comply with working time laws.

Employees are now making more and more claims under working time legislation. In fact, the recently published Workplace Relations Commission annual report found that employee hours of work claims rose threefold in 2019.

Increased levels of stress and anxiety

The survey examined the experience of over 2,000 employees working from home since lockdown began. A large number of younger workers reported mental wellbeing concerns that are connected to their new remote work set up. Here are some findings:

  • 70% of workers under-24 reported feeling stressed or anxious.
  • Over 63% of 25-34-year-olds reported increased anxiety levels.
  • 61% of men surveyed reported feeling stressed. This was more than the proportion of women reporting stress at 54%.

Regarding feelings of isolation, the results varied across age categories. For instance, 46% of over 55s missed their colleagues which contrasted sharply against the feelings of under 24s. Only 24% of under 24s reported missing their colleagues.

Another notable statistic is that over a fifth of employees reported feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Calls for flexibility

While employees reported feeling stressed as a result of working remotely, over half would like to continue working from home or have alternative flexible working arrangements in place on a more permanent basis. This includes the option to work from home.

Helping employees handle challenges

The move from office to remote working happened almost overnight. So, it’s understandable that employees have concerns about the changes happening in the world. There are a few steps employers can take to support employees with their mental health.

First of all, employers must ensure that employees are taking their daily and weekly rest periods. Employers should also keep in mind the need to record the working time of employees under working time laws. This obligation also applies to employees working on-site and remotely.

Employers must try to minimise the risk of remote workers feeling isolated by staying in regular contact with them. Managers also need to consider the culture of their organisation in deciding how to measure performance and monitor employees. Communication should also take account of the fact that life is unpredictable at the moment. Employees need support as people and not just as employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helping remote workers to establish healthy routines, encouraging them to take breaks and to get fresh air will all help reduce the level of stress experienced while working from home.

How an Employee Assistance Programme can help

Remote work for all that can do so continues right up to phase five of the Roadmap to Reopening. It also looks like it will be a more widespread work practice going forward. As a result, the support provided by an Employee Assistance Programme could prove valuable to employers during what will be a challenging return to work period.

These work-based support services provide independent counselling for employees who have any personal concerns that they don’t want to raise directly with their employer. In a time of great change, this individual support could be invaluable to both staff and business owners.  

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