Overcome 5 Common Myths About Work Post Covid-19
by Ms Bhali Kaur Gill, Associate Lecturer, Psychology Programme
School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences
Covid-19 has without a doubt changed the way we work. Many companies have been pushed towards allowing their employees to work from home and make drastic changes within a short time frame. Whilst working from home during a pandemic brings about an array of challenges for many people (such as family and work life conflict, adjustments to new technologies and missing out on the human touch), there hasn’t been a better time to discuss and change some ‘old’ ways of work within organisations. Why you may ask?
Simply because our ‘old’ ways of work have cost us our health, productivity and economy. In the US, work stress costs the economy approximately $500 billion dollars and 550 million workdays. In 2019, WHO classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” under the International Classifications of Diseases. Whilst working from home isn’t the only solution (and using the current state of the pandemic as a comparison wouldn’t be a fair one) we can now see that it is possible and organisations can use Covid-19 as an opportunity to explore ‘new’ ways of work.
Myth 1: Working over-time and longer hours means that my employees are more productive and committed.
Solution: 6 hour work days can improve mental health and increase workers’ productivity.
An elderly care home in Sweden trialled 6-hour workdays with nurses and found that fewer sick leave were taken, perceived health was reported to be better and productivity increased (nurses organised 85% more activities for their patients).
Myth 2: Working 5-days a week is the norm and is how things are done here.
Solution: 4 day work weeks can improve productivity.
A company in New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian trialled this out and found that engagement increased, stress levels decreased from 45% to 38% and work life balance improved significantly from 54% to 78%.
Andrew Barnes, the company’s founder told the Guardian: “To be honest, some of those activities [family and life commitments] were being done within office hours. If you give people the chance to be as good as they can be outside the office – because they have more time – then you are going to get a better performance in the office.”
More recently, Microsoft in Japan trialled out 4 day work weeks and found that productivity jumped 40%.
Myth 3: Sick leave should only be taken for physical health.
Solution: Sick leave can be taken for mental health.
Poor mental health impacts employees’ performance and can be a huge cost to organisations. Employees are 63% more likely to take a sick leave day when stressed. Allowing workers to use their leave to take “mental health days” can improve productivity, reduce costs from poor mental health and prevent ‘fake’ medical leave being taken.
Myth 4: Work should be fulfilled in a physical work space away from home otherwise my employees are not productive.
Solution: Allow for flexible work arrangements such as working from home.
Poor work life balance from rigid work arrangements can make it difficult for employees to fulfil their roles at home and at work. A study which sampled 351 full-time Chinese female employees found that work and family conflict was negatively related to mental health. As technology advances (and as Covid-19 has shown us) many jobs can be done at home.
Myth 5: Support for working mums are sufficient.
Solution: Greater support for mums to re-enter and remain in the workforce.
Re-entering the workforce or remaining at work is challenging for many mums. Providing options and support to mums when they return to work can prove beneficial for the community and the workplace. (e.g. providing sufficient maternity leave, part time opportunities and support upon return).
An article in Gallup highlights this simply: “….a work environment that ignores mothers’ needs is more than unwelcoming; it undercuts performance and can have a long-term effect on employee engagement.”
Solution: Encouraging dads to play a bigger role.
Working mums are constantly overloaded with multiple responsibilities (more so now than before) and are struggling to find a balance. Encouraging dads to take more responsibility at home by providing additional paid paternity leave and flexible work arrangements can help working mums relieve the stress they experience.
Whilst not all of these solutions may be applicable to your organisation, some of them may bring about beneficial transformations and create a healthier and more productive workforce post Covid-19.
The above article was first published in Medium. Ms Bhali Gill is a Psychologist, Coach, & founder of Conscious Unicorn. She writes about mental health at work, how to achieve well-being in life, positive psychology, and conscious living. She is passionate about guiding people to discover and reach their inner potential whilst remaining aligned to themselves. Her work has also been featured in Forbes and Golf/Women.