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Working from home is taking its toll on employees

26 May 2020

Acas has issued guidance to help staff manage their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, as new research shows that many employees are struggling with working from home.

A new survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Acas has found that nearly two in five employees working from home feel stressed, anxious or have experienced mental health difficulties due to their working situation. One in two people working from home feel isolated and seven out of ten employees say they are missing social interactions with others at work.

In response to the findings, Acas has published new guidance on mental health during coronavirus.

"Many employees are working from home for the first time during this pandemic and it is clear from our poll that it is a very stressful or anxious experience for many people," said Acas chief executive Susan Clews.

"The coronavirus lockdown has created lots of extra challenges such as a lack of social contact with work colleagues, feeling alone, trapped or struggling with childcare responsibilities. There's also a real anxiety around the impact of the virus itself, job security concerns whilst on furlough and genuine worries around whether it is safe to physically return back to their workplace."

The advice from Acas covers all of these workplace situations and offers practical advice on how workers, managers and bosses can support their colleagues during this difficult time. Acas has advised that employees should:

  • Talk to their manager about hours and when to take breaks;
  • Discuss what kind of contact they would prefer, such as phone calls or video calls;
  • Plan coffee breaks with other staff in order to keep in touch.

It looks likely that many firms will ask their staff to continue to work from home, even after it is deemed safe to return to the workplace. Companies such as Shopify, Facebook and Twitter have already said that staff can work from home indefinitely. Business surveys suggest that many companies are finding that remote working has been effective, they have seen productivity increases and they're keen to reduce the cost of their premises.

A survey of recruitment firms by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has revealed that 79% of those polled said they are reviewing their need for office space and 31% say they will definitely downsize.

Ann Swain, APSCo chief executive, said: "The biggest two cost bases to recruitment firms are people and premises and so it is not surprising that companies are looking to reduce those costs against a backdrop of a significant fall in business … what this research clearly shows us is that the age of the majority of staff being in the office five days a week is probably well and truly behind us."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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