The End of Lockdown: The Future of Homeworking and Mental Health.

The Prime Minister recently announced the road map for the future of the UK and the end of lockdown.

In brief, the plan is that:

  • Schools will reopen on 8 March. Recreation in outdoor spaces will be permitted between two people (eg. coffee, drinks or picnics).
  • After 29 March, outdoor gatherings of six people or two households will be allowed, including in private gardens.
  • From 12 April non-essential retail will reopen, including hairdressers, public buildings etc. and outdoor settings like beer gardens will reopen. So will gyms and swimming pools. But wider social contact rules will continue to apply in all settings – meaning no indoor mixing between different households will be allowed.
  • After 17 May, the rule of six will be abolished for outdoor gatherings, with a limit of thirty people. Two households can mix indoors, with the rule of six in hospitality.
  • All legal limits on social contact will be lifted by 21 June


Here at Thrive, we had two main thoughts.

1) What does that mean for the future of home working?

2) What impact will that impact have on mental health in the long term?

Managing Mental Health

Like most people, our first feeling was relief that lockdown and all the negative connotations such as the loneliness, isolation and uncertainty, could come to an end. It is exciting to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can start to make plans for the future, many of which will have been cancelled so many times.

That is true. And we remain excited and positive about the future in a post restrictions world.

However, the change could be overwhelming for many people. We’ve been living this life for almost a year now, with limited physical and social contact. The idea that, in less than four months, we could be hugging our friends and in large groups, can feel quite unsettling for many who may have gotten used to this new normal.

It’s 0 to 100, and for people with anxiety, especially social anxiety, it can cause real feelings of nervousness, anxiety and worry about what that will be like.   Mainly because so many of us have forgotten what it was like to just nip to a restaurant or pub and see your friends.

Something else to consider is that a lot of people have leant new coping mechanisms or self-care routines in lockdown. These are (quite naturally) home oriented and people are used to spending a lot more time on their own or going on long walks on weekends rather than out in large groups or away from home.

Something important to bear in mind is that, just because we are now allowed to leave, doesn’t mean that people should feel obliged to make a million plans once the restrictions are lifted. It’s important to continue to define your boundaries post lockdown and once all restrictions cease, and ensure you ring fence time for you every day.

It’s important to hold onto the lessons learnt over the last 12 months, particularly around selfcare, and carry them into the future.

Jodie wrote a white paper last year on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, which you can see is far-reaching and actually unknown as we go into the long term.  What we do know is that everyone is in the same storm, but a different boat and we must respect how people receive this information and transition out of lockdown and towards a life with no restrictions.

The Future of Homeworking

When we first went into lockdown, we wrote a blog questioning whether this was the home working revolution we had all been asking for? There are certainly many benefits for many businesses having now seen how home working does in fact work and we have seen the likes of Google and Twitter confirm their position moving forward stating they will allow people to continue to homework permanently.

When people will be allowed to return to the office fully remains a mystery. Presumably, it will be linked to the date when social interactions are allowed without limits, but we haven’t received any guidance on this. Whether access to the workplace will also be limited by vaccine passports remains unclear.

One thing that is clear is that, whilst it may have become tedious or monotonous in the last few months as the reality is the current home working situation does not actually reflect what real home working would be like, homeworking still has clear benefits. Whilst Rishi Sunak claims that working from home will not be the “new normal”, some people will want to retain the flexibility that working from home may have given them. Employers should consider being flexible in the future, as people do return as some employees may be keen to remain in the office other may seek to work from home whilst many would prefer a hybrid and a flexible approach moving forward.

At Thrive we have always adopted Smart working (pre COVID-19) where the staff can choose when and where they work to suit how they work best and their needs, of course balancing these with the needs of the business, but we are living proof that this flexibility really does work long term.

If you have any challenges when bringing your team back or want to change the policies around flexible working post lockdown, get in touch and we can support you through this final hurdle.  Email Jodie.hill@thrivelaw.co.uk

Do you know what to do when it comes to your employee’s mental health?

Do you have high rates of sick absences? Do you struggle to keep employee’s wellbeing at the top of your agenda?

What if you could reduce the number of sick absences you have, what if you could increase your employees productively at work. The most successful businesses are those that invest in their people and put their employee’s wellbeing at the top of their agenda. Your people are the drivers of your business, looking after their mental wellbeing will only benefit your business in the long run.

Thrive has created a Wellbeing programme for businesses to better understand their employee’s wellbeing and by having this knowledge you will reap the rewards.

Email annabelle.oliver@thrivelaw.co.uk to access this for FREE for a day to see if this is something you and your team could benefit from or arrange a demo.

Disclaimer

Please note this blog is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. Please contact us if you have any questions on enquiries@thrivelaw.co.uk

By Jodie Hill and Alicia Collinson

 

 

 

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