Barton’s blog: Is a return to the workplace best for employees’ mental wellbeing?

It’s certainly a nail-biting time in UK politics this week, but not for any reasons prime minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party would wish. At the time of writing this, the much-anticipated reports into the Downing Street parties had not been released. The nation waits with baited breath for the findings of Sue Gray’s and the Met Police’s investigations into ‘Partygate’ while Downing Street desperately defends each new allegation.

While the actions of politicians can’t be likened to business leaders and organisations, it raises the question of how to maintain positivity among employees in the midst of negative headlines. If an organisation is involved in a scandal, for example, how can employers keep staff motivated and engaged, while reinforcing a positive corporate culture?

Putting the issue of scandals and breaking lockdown rules aside, last week employers were given the green light for employees to return to the workplace as part of the easing of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) restrictions and a return to Plan A and normality, whatever that might look like. Before the March 2020 lockdown, flexible working arrangements for all employees were not commonplace for all organisations. Some offered flexible working hours, hybrid-working arrangements or a four-day week, but since the lockdowns levelled the playing field, many organisations and their staff are hesitant to return to pre-pandemic ways of working.

Our podcast this month demonstrates the success that one employer has seen in implementing flexible working arrangements. Together Housing Group’s Smart Working programme gives all its employees the option to work to patterns that support their work-life balance; whether that is a four-day week, a nine-day fortnight, or flexible start and finish times, among other options.

We have seen many studies that suggest the majority of employees want to work to more flexible arrangements but there is a slight dichotomy of thought as to whether remote working or a return to the workplace is best for mental wellbeing, and if a hybrid approach will be best in the long term. No doubt we will continue to see this thinking develop as employers assess what is best for their employees.

Tynan Barton
Acting editor
Tweet: @tynanbartonEB