Striking a balance: on mental health in the workplace

We’ve disconnected and connected. We’ve gone remote and we’ve stepped into each other’s homes. We’ve had to adapt to new ways of working and socialising.

We’ve disconnected and connected. We’ve gone remote and we’ve stepped into each other’s homes. We’ve had to adapt to new ways of working and socialising. And, because of this, workplace mental health has become an increasingly hot topic for a lot of businesses. 

Over the past year, these not-so-new ways of working have had a knock-on effect on our home lives, and finding a sense of stability has been particularly challenging. Home-schooling and childcare have had to be juggled alongside full-time work; the uncertainty of when people might see their families, friends and colleagues again has taken its toll; and the line between the personal and the professional has become increasingly blurred. 

When our work lives and home lives collided in March of last year, ideas about our mental wellbeing and how we strike a balance took on a renewed significance. 

From video calls and online file sharing to flexible working and staying in touch with colleagues, the working world has had to adapt its processes to meet the demands of the ongoing global public health crisis. Businesses have learned to combat the challenges of the last year with tried and tested methodologies, but what is the state of play for mental wellbeing in the workplace?

Living in the digital world

With meetings, conferences and catchups switched from face-to-face conversations to video calls on software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, many employees have been led down unfamiliar paths and have had to adapt to working with new systems and technologies. 

And this has all impacted on the way we communicate with our colleagues. The days of having a coffee and a catch-up in the kitchen may feel like a distant memory, with many people feeling isolated and cut off due to the lack of social interaction. 

As the weeks and months have passed, businesses and their workers have shown greater resilience when it comes to digital communication, taking it in their stride and adjusting to changing processes and platforms. Many businesses have opted to set up online social events and quizzes, or wellbeing hours to ensure that mental health is being properly cared for. 

Staying in touch – online or offline – has never been so important. 

The need for flexibility

Businesses have adapted to Covid-19 by being flexible and understanding their employees’ home-life situations, especially those home-schooling their children while working full-time or caring for others 

The pandemic has left many people questioning whether they really do need to be in an office environment, having worked from home for over 12 months. And businesses are asking these questions too. If productivity levels are maintained through remote working, will there be a need for full-time office working in the wake of the pandemic? 

Many organisations are reviewing their work model and considering ways of working that may not have been on the horizon two years ago. Some are looking at hybrid options, while others contemplate a complete removal of office life (although this seems to be increasingly ditched). Every business is different and so each must weigh up their options and decide what will work best for them. Whether the office is a social hub or an integral way of work life, employers have decisions to make to manage employee wellbeing and productivity.

Striking a balance

With so many of us setting up our workspaces at home, how do we make sense of where our work lives end and our home lives begin? 

Ultimately, it’s a difficult juggling act, but one that leaves employees space to find balance on their own terms. Prior to the pandemic, employees were travelling more, whether that be the morning commute or the business trips we’ve now swapped for video conferencing. Precious time with our families was often sacrificed in the name of work obligations, and many people were suffering from the fatigue of overworking, leaving little time to wind down with their loved ones. 

With the ability to do our jobs from our homes and unnecessary travel largely cut out, workers have the opportunity to find their own balance, increase their productivity, and adjust to a new normal of working to live, rather than living to work. 

However, people can also find themselves facing back-to-back online calls with barely enough time to get up off their seats and get some water. Or coffee. Or go scream into a pillow. The ability to squeeze so many meetings into our days – without the natural break of travelling to/from – can prove detrimental and ultimately drain productivity and zap energy. 

There are new ways for us all to feel the strain, and new ways of thinking about how we look after each other. As with everything, we can only try our best, and do our bit to look out for the people we work with. 

How has Kenyons prioritised mental wellbeing during the last year?

Here’s how we’ve done our bit to look out for each other… 

As a teamwe’ve kept lines of communication open to help make sure that everyone feels connected and part of the team. We’ve created initiatives and events in collaboration – and we’ve asked each other for feedback and input into the activities that help us feel better, so that we can better shape what we’re doing. We’ve held team socials and quizzes, socially distanced walks (when permitted), continued the monthly award nomination and set up a buddy system to ensure everyone always has someone to talk to.  

We asked our team: which Kenyons initiatives have had the most positive impact on your mental wellbeing over the past 12 months? 

Lorna Young, Marketing Director, said: “The buddy system, online socials and having the freedom to go into the office, if needed – especially when I’ve had to escape the children or when I’ve had work being done on my home. These have all had a really positive impact on my mental wellbeing over the past 12 months.” 

Aaron McDonald, Head of Creative Content, said: “For methe socials were great when the pandemic first startedas it was a very bizarre time back then. But actually, working from home has been great in terms of not having a long commute in stressful traffic. It has been nice to eliminate that element from my day and it’s cleared my head a lot more each morning and evening!” 

Charlotte Price, Creative PR Executive, said: “The socials and buddy system have been amazing while working from home, especially as I’m fairly new to the business. It was a great way for me to get involved and get to know the team, despite not meeting them in person. It has been really beneficial for my mental health because it’s meant that I haven’t been cut off from the rest of the team.”

Whether we’re working from home or working in the office, at Kenyons we:

  • Keep in touch 
  • Gather feedback and really listen to people  
  • Review what we’re doing  
  • Aren’t afraid to explore new ideas and ways of doing things 

With that last point in mind, we would really love to hear about the different activities and initiatives other businesses have implemented during the last year which have been beneficial to employee mental health and wellbeing. 

Are there initiatives you want to continue as standard practice within your organisation? Or perhaps there are some things that didn’t work for you as well as you’d expected? 

If you have any thoughts on workplace mental health that you’d like to share with us, get in touch with or tag us on social media @WeAreKenyons.