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A work-from-home mental health pandemic is looming

Ahead of Blue Monday, I have survey results from South London Co-working brand HomeWork, which show that the homeworking dream isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be for many employees.

The pandemic brought changes to the way we do business; many firms adopted a work-from-home policy as an employee ‘perk’. However, research ahead of Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year – suggests working from home is not quite the dream.

In February 2022, data released by the Office for National Statistics revealed 42% of the UK workforce planned to spend most of their working week at home. As a result, half of firms surveyed by PwC planned to reduce office space; a third of which said by at least 30%.

Working from home has its advantages. However, it is easy to overlook the disadvantages including, poor mental health arising from isolation and a lack of social interaction and the inability to ‘switch-off’. Working from home continues to bring new challenges.

A survey* was carried out on members and ad-hoc users across its three co-working sites in London about their experiences working at home versus using flexible workspaces. 94% of respondents said they are ‘happier’ working from a professional workspace than at home.

When asked about the main disadvantages of working from home, ‘getting distracted’ was the biggest problem for 68% of respondents. ‘Feeling isolated from a lack of social interaction’ (62%) and ‘overworking/ability to switch off mentally’ (57%) and ‘staying motivated’ (45%) were also significant issues for survey respondents.

Importantly for employers of remote workers, almost all (98%) of remote workers that took the survey admitted to being ‘more productive working from a professional workspace’.

“Social interactions, even micro social interactions make a big difference.” Home life draws me in with chores and household stuff, there’s always something to do. At the workspace my mind is a lot clearer and therefore more focused.” Christopher Hughes, Southfields.

“I like the detachment of home and work life – making it easier to switch off at the end of the day, and I value the short commute.” Joe Phillips, Putney.

With Blue Monday (January 16, 2023) looming, HomeWork a flexible workspace provider, is warning employers to check in on employee wellbeing, and encouraging remote workers to prioritise their mental wellbeing by switching up their working from home habits.

Claire Tucker, Co-Founder of HomeWork Workspace, said: It is clear that many people have fallen out of love with working from home full time. The benefits of interacting with people in real life, even just brief interactions whilst making a coffee, shouldn’t be underestimated. Yes, people want to break free from the traditional office in favour of working flexibly, but homeworking isn’t necessarily the right solution.

Flexible workspaces offer the benefits of a traditional office but at a location convenient to the individual. However, a great co-working space is more than a physical base.

Claire says, It is a supportive business community people want. It is fantastic to see more employers offering hybrid working options, but they must understand the additional support their staff need, whether that be emotional or practical. We’re more than a workspace, we offer people the chance to be their best professional self at HomeWork.”

“Being together with my team in person, even if not 5 days a week, is invaluable.” Andy Wood, Southfields.

As well as increased productivity levels, over half (53%) of respondents said inspiration from the environment and people around me helps me stay focused on growing my business and meeting my goals’ was the biggest benefit when working from a professional workspace. The social and learning opportunities are a big plus, with ‘the opportunity to meet people and collaborate with people’ (40%), the ‘support from the business community/feel part of something bigger’ (28%) and the ‘opportunity to learn from peers’ (21%) scoring high.

Claire says:Remote and hybrid working gives people the opportunity for a better work-life balance, but this shouldn’t be at the expensive of their mental wellbeing and ability to progress professionally.

Claire adds: Reducing office space may make business sense for some companies, but rather than seeing it as a cost-saving, they should look to re-invest. New flexible-working policies allowing employees to choose to work from convenient co-working spaces as part of their working week would improve overall engagement and performance amongst teams.”

*HomeWork

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