Mental health and well-being as we emerge from lockdowns

Posted On 27 Oct 2021

Mental health and well-being as we emerge from lockdowns

27 Oct 2021
Mental health and well-being as we emerge from lockdowns

Candidate Resource, Employer Resource, EST10 Team, News & Events

Mental health and well-being as we emerge from lockdowns

As we enter the last week of October, with mental health being the focus for the month, I thought it important to write a blog on this very crucial subject.

The truth is, even though my team have been asking me to do so since the beginning of the month, I’ve not found it an easy topic to write about. When it comes to mental health, well-being and work-life balance (WLB), personally, I have a back and forward dialogue in my brain, ‘you just have to get on with it’. In addition, as a manager, surely you have to be ‘strong’ all the time. I wouldn’t want my team to think I couldn’t cope and deal with everything that is thrown our way. But I know deep down that also isn’t possible, nor healthy.

Then I did the research! There is a vast body of research, surveys, papers, magazine articles, and blogs dedicated to this topic, and it appears we are all feeling it! Let’s face it, the last 19 plus months have been exceptionally hard; the pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions have all taken a toll. In protecting our workforce and businesses, this is our next most significant issue. Our own most recent EST10 Delta survey also highlights this, with 69.7% of respondents saying they are more stressed during this lockdown versus our the lockdowns from 2020. In addition, over 50% said their mental health has been adversely affected by WFH. These two statistics are despite the job losses not being nearly as high as last year, and of those surveyed, 94.6% are employed.

This provides much-needed insight into the minds of our workforce right now. So, what can be done to support our workers and keep businesses strong?

Exploring WLB–is it real anymore?

WLB has always been a ‘thing’. But, lately, linked heavily to our working from home (WFH) situation, our mental health, well-being, and balance have increased in focus. Uncertainty and a sense of hopelessness brought on by the lockdowns and the pandemic affected some people more than others. The lack of the feeling of ‘progress’, as we were counting days of restrictions and inability to plan things for the near future, left us existing in a ‘no man’s land’. I think we have all been examining and questioning our previously held assumptions of WLB. The term WLB might suggest there is an ideal or correctly measured ratio of work to life. I don’t know about you, but it seems more fluid and elusive of late. I am also not sure the subject of WLB is as straightforward as it seems. Does it provide the well-being we seek? I am also not convinced it can be achieved through structure alone.

On the topic of ‘burnout’, Colleen Callander and author of ‘Leader by Design’, one of our recent guest Masterclass speakers, refer to it as ‘life in balance’. I thought it very poignant and a belief I have always held for myself. My other view on WLB is what works for one doesn’t necessarily apply for another and that the elusive balance we seek shifts and changes. The findings from our survey also demonstrate:

  • more people seem happier (75.7%) with their current job now, versus our last survey in April 2021
  • 42% feel COVID-19 has changed their working life habits for the better
  • 2% have integrated a healthier lifestyle when WFH
  • 1% said their financial situation has improved.

And yet, increased stress and mental health are significant concerns for the very same respondents.

Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review published an article, ‘Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement’, which discusses research showing that the balance is not something that can be fixed in one go. It is instead the process, with self-awareness playing a significant role. This self-awareness was also something Colleen spoke about as well. It seems we are all on the same track!

WLB–why so dramatic?

It always feels so dramatic to me, i.e., ‘choosing one or the other’! Sometimes it’s just not that easy. Sometimes, the two worlds of work and life meld. And sometimes, depending on your job, cultural background, personality, gender, maturity, along with individual drive, ambitions, desires, and goals, a WLB as ‘prescribed’ is just not possible nor necessary.

That’s someone else’s WLB.

Instead of choosing, maybe, we need to learn how to feel ‘alive’ while we are working? And by the way, it is also worth mentioning that different generations would have their unique approach to the subject. Maturity, previous experiences, and the unique outlook of each generation plays a significant role. In a Forbes article published long before the pandemic (Mar 27, 2018), it is observed that: it might be helpful for employers to identify the difference in opinions among the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials’ when it comes to the approach to this subject that is constantly evolving.

For me, I don’t believe life and work are mutually exclusive. Balance can’t be just ‘hours’ not working. I achieve balance, but not through hours not worked per se, instead through knowing what replenishes my energy. For example, watching TV isn’t a balance for me. So, if I spend the time allotted to my ‘balance’ watching TV–I wouldn’t, in fact, have a balance at all. That would be an escape for me and might work short-term, but it would not fill me with fresh new energy. However, we all have our ‘distractions’ and ‘pleasures’, and as long as they achieve their purpose, they are all valid.

Purpose

Perhaps purpose is the lynchpin to the whole concept of balance, well-being and assisting mental health?  I’m enthralled, engaged, challenged, curious and motivated by my job. I am also stressed, disappointed, frustrated, and tired on a lot of occasions. But I always remind myself of the purpose–that’s what keeps me going. Please bear in mind that loving what we do is not a gift. I am not one of ‘those lucky ones’. It is a choice too!

The satisfaction and achievement derived from the purpose of my job provides me with positive energy, motivation and drive. Without purpose, I’m not sure you can have balance. I don’t believe we should view WLB, solely through the lens of reduced working hours–as is often the case.

I believe strongly for the future and well-being of our workforce, businesses and economy, we need to move away from the focus of reducing the hours and days of work and instead move towards having a purpose coupled with healthy boundaries. As we emerge from the lockdowns, back to the office, hybrid or WFH, I have no doubt in my mind, the mental health of our workforce will be our next biggest hurdle. Employee well-being is crucial for businesses to navigate. Instead, let’s look to provide safe, secure and supportive environments for our teams and jobs with purpose!

I hope your job has a purpose, and I wish you all to have life in balance as well!

 

‘Work-life balance is not an entitlement or benefit. Your company cannot give it to you. You have to create it for yourself.’ – Matthew Kelly, Author

About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.