The pandemic has made us more aware than ever of the fragility of our own health - but not just in terms of COVID-19. Over the course of numerous lockdowns our national mental health took a nosedive, with over 16% of adults in England and Wales showing signs of depression according to a 2021 study by the ONS (and that figure only increases when looking specifically at 16-39 age groups). Physical health was in-turn negatively impacted, as physical activity levels decreased while sedentary behaviour became more common.
The topic of health and safety at work, then, is one on every employer’s mind, especially as calls increase for a hybrid model that will see more employees than ever distributed outside the main office, and thus not always in physical proximity to their colleagues. But regardless of where work takes place, throughout the working day employers are still responsible for their workforce’s health and safety - whether that’s through ensuring they have suitable equipment to work from anywhere or checking in with their mental wellbeing regularly.
Health and safety in the hybrid working era doesn’t have to be daunting though - in fact, it can even be easier to manage than in a traditional centralised office space.
6.9 million working days were lost to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2018/19 - in other words, they constitute the second highest cause of ill health in Great Britain. The pandemic has only exacerbated pre-existing issues, especially among workers who don’t have dedicated home office spaces. A 2021 Savills survey found that only 7.5% of 18-24 year old respondents were able to work from a home office space, with a much greater proportion admitting to working from kitchen/dining areas, living rooms, and bedrooms - such findings are clearly a cause of concern for employers.
But, making use of serviced office spaces could create a happy balance for those who want to work-near-home without the added risk factor of a bad back. Workspaces, like those listed by NearU, are all equipped with high quality office furniture, with some spaces even offering a wider variation of equipment from standing desks to ergonomic options.
While home-working has had its benefits for some, most employees have been badly affected by isolation. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of home-workers experienced loneliness, with women more likely to catch the brunt of this than men, according to research from TotalJobs. Social isolation puts your workforce at an increased risk of mental health issues, which in-turn will affect productivity and eventually impact company output, so the importance of work interaction cannot be overstated.
As most companies look set to roll out hybrid working policies that will see employees out of the main office for at least a few days a week, it’s vital that employers continue to boost socialisation - whether this be through engineering virtual water coolers for staff to chat non-work related topics over, or hosting regular socials. Making use of serviced offices and co-working spaces can also be a great way to boost mood through socialisation - since there are a greater variety of individuals working in such spaces every day, the chance of having a new, exciting social interaction is greatly increased. Similarly, offering employees a greater variety of locations to work for can help promote that all important work-life separation that many have found difficult to maintain during COVID times.
Health and safety in the hybrid working era doesn’t have to be a HR nightmare - with a few adjustments, it can often be easier to maintain employee wellbeing than a remote-first or centralised office model. Making use of serviced office spaces through NearU means that worries over providing the correct equipment can be quelled, and social interaction can still be as organic (and perhaps even more varied) as in the main office.