The new ‘always on’ digital workplace culture that has been established in response to the global pandemic can have a detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of staff. We look at how to use analytics to monitor the psychological impact of remote working during lockdown.
According to recent research from the Mental Health Foundation, 80% of HR managers believe the recent rapid increase in home working is actually creating a rise in what is referred to as ‘e-presenteeism’ – when employees feel they should always be available online and responding to work related requests as much as humanly possible.
The psychological impact of remote working during lockdown
The lockdown is helping to contain the spread of coronavirus but as organisations accelerate their digital transformation initiatives to quickly get all their staff working remotely en-masse,
there are notable repercussions towards employee mental health and wellbeing. With employees now working from their homes and communicating in real-time through online collaboration tools, this is impacting individuals’ ability to maintain a healthy work/ life balance, as they feel the need to prove their worth by working extra hours and potentially increase their job security.
Recent research revealed more than half (54%) of HR leaders believe mental health issues such as ‘stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness’ had increased among their workforce since the coronavirus crisis. As this is taking place during a time of economic uncertainty in which many people are losing jobs and businesses are closing, the situation is putting additional pressures on staff, fuelling e-presenteesim.
A stressed workforce reduces productivity
With the pandemic and remote working adding a variety of complications to people’s daily routines, it is not surprising many staff are feeling under pressure to perform. The findings reveal office workers appear to be clocking up an estimated 28 hours of unpaid overtime each month, which is the same as an extra four days of work. From an employer’s perspective these statistics are particularly concerning. Overworked staff can experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety, impacting performance and hindering collaboration with co-workers. In turn, this then has a wider impact on overall business objectives.
Mental health issues and stress can be difficult to recognise, especially in large organisations amongst multiple remote working teams and departments, however it is vital team leaders recognise the early warning signs and take immediate action. Management should not be waiting for staff to approach them, as they may not be honest about how they are feeling. Fortunately, data and analytics technologies can be used to help easily identify individuals or departments that are suffering from increased stress or are at the highest risk of ‘burnout’.
Gaining valuable insights from workforce data
By analysing internal datasets from a wide variety of sources it is possible to clearly identify, track and flag potential areas of concern so management can respond accordingly. This can be collected from employees, human resources, infrastructure, communications and IT to gain visibility and insights on staff interactions, attitudes and satisfaction levels. For example, in-house instant messaging data (such as Microsoft Teams), employee timesheets, work calendars and email communication patterns are valuable sources of information that provide a clearer picture of how staff are interacting and working.
Once this has been established, the data can be used to adapt management and training processes, helping ensure all staff are content, engaged and as stress-free as possible. This will encourage a healthier work-life balance, even during any difficult times of crisis, disruption or uncertainty. Doing this will create a positive and more cooperative workplace culture which can help to drive business growth and long-term success.
Organisations adopting the latest data and analytics solutions will be best positioned to identify whether their employees are spending longer online than they were previously, or if they are working irregular patterns outside of their usual hours. By automating the data collection and analysis process, managers will be provided with a true representation of each employees’ activities and workloads versus outputs and time spent working online.
Looking to the future
Overworked and stressed staff will invariably have a negative impact on the operational effectiveness and strategic success of any organisation or business, particularly at this difficult time. We still do not know exactly when things will return to normality, so as we look ahead, it is essential that every employer takes advantage of the data they have at their disposal to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff. If they can use these insights to reduce e-presenteeism, it will help ensure each of their employees remains as healthy, engaged and productive as possible.
James Don-Carolis is managing director at data analytics consultancy TrueCue