The debate around remote work continues as more companies like Amazon push for a return to the office, and employees desire more flexible work.
However, as many benefits as remote work has – from up to 72 minutes of time saved per day, increased autonomy and financial savings – there are some pitfalls as well.
Now, research from Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) shows that working from home may increase depression and anxiety.
Remote work’s influence on mental health
The study found that remote work had an increased effect on mental health as compared to in-person work. Specifically, the study found that increased rates of anxiety and depression were found in fully-remote workers (40%) and hybrid workers (38%), but only 35% for those who work on-site.
The study, which was conducted between July 2021 and August 2022 to survey the pandemic’s effect on mental health, also found that:
- The number of individuals taking prescription medication for their mental health rose to 22%
- The unmet need for counseling rose from 12% to 14%, and
- Overall rates of depression and anxiety decreased from 40% at the height of the pandemic to 35%.
The issue of mental health has been more present in recent years, which has been especially driven by younger generations pushing for openness and transparency when it comes to mental health and burnout. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression “are an important cause of presenteeism, sickness absence and disability,” Candace Nelson, IBI Director of Research, said in the press release.
3 key areas for HR to focus on
Tackling mental health is tricky and requires more than a wellness seminar or a newsletter about self-care. Here are three broad areas for HR to focus on to help improve mental health maintenance and support employees who are struggling.
1. Benefits: Depression and anxiety can be debilitating and may require mental health treatment to help manage symptoms. Upping benefits to include mental health resources, like access to therapy, psychiatric care and mental health education or tools, can help employees access what they need when they need it.
2. Culture: Creating a culture that encourages transparency and openness about struggles, prioritizes wellness and encourages a healthy work-life balance is a key part of boosting employee well-being. Starting conversations in the workplace about mental health can also give employees the encouragement they need to talk about it in their personal life and find the help they need without worrying about it interfering with work.
3. Leadership: In the same vein, a leadership team who is transparent about their own struggles and encourages employees to prioritize work-life balance can help employees feel comfortable enough to put themselves first.