We’re at the beginning of what the Wall Street Journal has termed a ‘work-from-home revolution’. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organisations all over the world to accelerate flexible home working in order to comply with social distancing and quarantine measures, and it’s raised a potentially game-changing question: what’s the point of going back to the office?
Research by Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, shows that many organisations don’t plan on returning to normal at all: 82% of corporate leaders plan to allow part-time remote work, while 47% intend to allow full-time remote work. A separate survey from Microsoft yielded similar results: 82% of managers will have more flexible working from home policies in a post-pandemic future.
For many people, this is a positive: no commute, a more comfortable working environment, more agency over your working rhythms and hours… Managers are also becoming more adept at leveraging technology to improve remote communications, to the benefit of everyone in their team.
But there are significant potential drawbacks to a permanent working-from-home model, including a lack of work life balance, social isolation, difficult getting motivated and a lack of face-to-face interaction with management.
These are important considerations that require preventative, rather than reactive, action as we move towards a new normal. BetterSpace has some insight for organisations looking to preserve employee wellbeing as they shift to permanent remote working.
Working from home is a massive time-saver for anyone who would usually need to leave their house an hour or two before arriving at the office and put themselves through a lengthy commute. It can be tempting for this time to become absorbed into the working day, boosting the number of productive working hours.
Microsoft Teams—one of the big winners of the COVID video communications boom—has seen a 15-23% increase in usage between both 8am-9am and 6pm-8pm, while the number of calls happening at weekends has swelled by 200%.
However, this can backfire quickly. Letting working hours bleed into our evenings and weekends compromises our work-life balance, a crucial factor in preserving mental wellbeing and keeping employee burnout at bay. Instead of becoming more productive, your employees could easily become distracted, unmotivated, bored and frustrated.
It is therefore in your interest as the employer to help your employees implement strong boundaries when it comes to their working hours and encourage them to take time to look after their mental health outside of these.
Beyond traditional corporate wellbeing
Spending on corporate programmes that support employee mental health and emotional wellbeing was increasing before the pandemic: around 45% of wellbeing budget increases were for these types of services. However, it’s not just the increased spend that matters; it’s how the money is being spent.
Engagement rates with traditional employee wellbeing services—including EAP counselling, points-based systems and gym memberships—were as low as 2% before the pandemic. Working from home has the potential to make these figures worse.
Research has shown that holistic, preventative programmes that are tailored to the individual employees’ needs have much stronger engagement rates. A pilot project between Linklaters and BetterSpace, a holistic, choice-based employee wellbeing marketplace aligned to the six pillars of wellbeing, garnered a 94% engagement rate.
There is no solid blueprint for implementing wellbeing strategies in the workplace—at least, not one that has proven entirely effective. Many traditional ‘solutions’ yield returns as low as 0.4:1, meaning that employers are losing money on mental wellbeing expenditure.
It can be tempting, in the race to adapt to the so-called ‘working from home revolution’, to throw money at the problem somewhat indiscriminately. The Wall Street Journal reports one company looking to invest in Peloton bikes, which cost a considerable £1895, plus a £39 per month subscription for unlimited video classes, with no guarantee that staff will actually use them.
The solution? Put your employees in charge of their own wellbeing. Not everyone is going to derive the same benefits from a Peloton bike, or a meditation app, or a counselling session. Tailored, choice-based solutions yield the strongest engagement rates, empower employees to take responsibility for their wellbeing and, most importantly, actually bring you return on your investment.
BetterSpace is the employee wellbeing platform that is putting control where it belongs: in the hands of the individual employee. Our groundbreaking solution is aligned to the six pillars of wellbeing and empowers your workforce to understand and fulfil their mental health needs.
This approach has achieved sky-high engagement rates of 94%, compared to the average usage rate of 2-18% for employee assistance programmes and 10-40% for points solutions.
Want to know more? Schedule a product demonstration with us today.
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Organisations need to change the way they approach employee mental health in order to retain staff, accelerate productivity and transform company culture. BetterSpace is the only clinically-backed employee wellbeing platform that offers end-to-end personalisation in an effort to drive lasting change to mental health in the workplace.