The working day is now 49 mins longer

In March, few people were prepared to make the shift from office to remote working. Some people found themselves working from a laptop, perched on the end of their bed. Others found space in spare rooms, on landings, or kitchen tables.

Amusing as it is to see a colleague’s cat walking into frame, this sudden blending of work and home has increased stress levels and extended working hours. Neither of which is good for mental wellbeing.

Mental distress among workers is up by almost half

2020 report by 4 Day Week campaign and thinktanks Compass and Autonomy, revealed that by April a third of all workers who hadn’t been furloughed were working more hours than usual. Overall, the working day has been extended by an average of 49 minutes.

But it’s not just the length of the day that’s increasing stress levels. The shift from working in an office to working remotely wasn’t one that many were prepared for. Technology makes it easy to communicate with colleagues instantly but makes it more difficult to separate work from home.

As a result, the prevalence of mental distress among workers is now 49% higher compared to 2017-19. It would be easy to blame the increase entirely on the pandemic. But while the level of absenteeism pre-pandemic has declined, poor mental health in the workplace has increased.

In 2018/19 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health. The report projects that should the increase continue, poor mental health will represent the “majority of all cases of work-related ill health.”

On the flip side, the Mental Health at Work 2020 report shows that the way organisations manage mental health has improved. The number of employees who feel that their organisation supports their mental health rose from 55% in 2019 to 63% in 2020.

In addition, employees report that managers are more aware of their team’s wellbeing. 58% felt their manager recognises that providing emotional support to their team is part of their job. 62% of employees now feel comfortable talking about stress in the workplace.

The Christmas break can’t come soon enough this year. It will be a welcome opportunity for many people to down tools, recharge and regain some separation between work and home. When workers do return to the office fully, sometime in 2021, the office will look very different and we expect wellbeing to be top of employer’s agendas.