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Return to the office could be bad for mental health

A quarter (24%) of UK office workers believe physically returning to the workplace may impact their mental health in a negative way.

This is because employees have enjoyed the freedom working from home allows them, according to new research by digital coaching company Ezra. 

The majority (88%) of employees said the impact of the pandemic and working from home had not been detrimental to their mental health.

Over half (59%) have seen no difference to their mental health, and 28% felt remote working had affected them more positively.

Nick Goldberg, founder of Ezra, said the national lockdowns have had vastly different impacts on different people.

He told HR magazine: “Despite lockdown forcing a drastically different way of life upon us, the silver lining for many has been more time spent at home with loved ones and a far better work-life balance.

“For some, this means that working from home has actually been beneficial for their mental health and it comes as no surprise that replacing this family time with commuting and the pressures of the workplace are the biggest concerns about returning to the physical workplace.”

As companies start to plan their back to work strategies, employees are worried about how the return to the office will affect their mental wellbeing.

The biggest worry cited by employees was spending less time with their family (25%).

Having to commute again (22%) and the fear of catching COVID-19 (14%) were also identified as factors that could negatively impact employee mental health.

Goldberg said: “Everyone is dealing with the current landscape differently and it’s clear that remote working doesn’t work for everyone.

“While it certainly feels like we’ve been under some form of lockdown restrictions forever, there’s also no real indication as to how remote working could impact us on an ongoing, long-term basis.”

As lockdown restrictions are eased, Goldberg said it is important businesses consider how they adapt to meet the needs of all their employees.

“This will no doubt take the form of a hybrid workplace, allowing for some flexibility on working from home, but also maintaining the physical workplace on a full-time basis for those that need it.”

The pandemic’s effect on employee mental health:

HR spends a third of time on mental health support for employees

Job seekers want employers that actively tackle burnout

Homeworkers can't stop overworking