Is working from home making us happy?
In our post-pandemic, technologically advanced world, more people employed in the financial services industry are working remotely from home, or have adopted a hybrid model that includes some remote days each week. While there have been several studies and thought leadership pieces debating the pros and cons of working from home when it comes to productivity, what about the impact on mental health? Is one better than the other? As more offices close, what can FS employers do to ensure employees’ mental wellbeing is protected?
Not all social interactions are created equally – particularly when it comes to their benefit on mental health. Research has found that technology-based relations are ultimately less rich than face-to-face interactions. For FS or banking employees working fully remotely, loneliness and a lack of in-person contact can have a detrimental impact on mental health.
Our ability to process facial expressions, non-verbal communication, and connect on a deeper level is far higher when working with colleagues in the same physical space. All of these allow for more sophisticated and meaningful connections with other people, something proven to be vital for mental and emotional wellbeing, and lasting physical health.
More free time
On the other hand, working from home has – for many – freed up time. Whether it's cutting out the morning commute to the office, or reducing time spent getting ready for the day, for many banking employees, there has been a small increase in free time. This can benefit mental health in various ways. For some, it has simply resulted in more sleep, something which is vital for good mental health. For others, it has helped improve their work-life balance and freed up time for activities such as exercise or creativity, which can be beneficial for overall wellbeing.
Crucially, for parents or carers, working from home has helped many spend more time with their family – or facilitated easier logistical arrangements, such as collecting children from school. Easing the management of family responsibilities can help reduce stress for many of the FS employees who currently working from home.
Separating work from life
However, this isn’t always the case. One possible benefit of working from the office is the ability to draw a clear distinction between work and home life. Over half of UK employees say that working remotely has led to blurred boundaries between their work and personal life, and the repercussions of this can be working longer hours, heightened stress, feeling pressure to be ‘always available’, and a struggle to switch off and relax.
When it comes to mental ill-health, it has been found that employees who work more than 55 hours a week are at a significantly higher risk of depression and anxiety.
Finally, it is worth considering the impact of remote or home working on productivity, and the subsequent impact this can have on the mental health of FS sector employees. For some, working from home has provided quieter, calmer environments which facilitate higher levels of productivity. For others, the lack of colleagues and accountability has led to struggles with focus and momentum. Those who fall into the latter camp could find they are left with increased levels of stress and unfulfillment as a result.
What is clear is that the relationship between working from home and mental health is person and situation specific. For FS employers with the resources to cater to different preferences and needs, perhaps a tailored approach is more advisable than a one-size-fits-all system, in a bid to protect and nourish the mental wellbeing of their staff.
Visit our Knowledge Hub for more insights into the changing world of work in the FS sector.