The Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we work, often for good. We’re now starting to understand the impact of this change on our work culture, and our long-term health and wellbeing.

The idea that most of us would work from home (WFH) was almost unthinkable before the pandemic. While some people were doing so long before Covid-19, it was the exception rather than the rule – for most of us, office life was standard.

It’s been three years since the outbreak of Covid, and we’re still getting to grips with the new long-term work culture and impact of a changed working environment. Multiple studies have been conducted on whether this global shift is good or bad for teams and businesses, and for our individual health and wellbeing.

The Pros

The perks of working from home are well documented and include:

  • Less time spent on commuting
  • More flexibility when it comes to planning your work day
  • A customised workspace and being able to work in casual clothes
  • Increased productivity due to fewer distractions from the office environment
  • More money saved from not having to commute or buy canteen food

These pointers seem like a win-win situation all round, but it’s not that simple.

A recent article, published in The New York Times, was written by Dr Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery. In it, he explains how WFH can negatively affect your mental and physical health.

The Drawbacks

Dr Metzl found that WFH has made people more sedentary – a major concern for our overall health and wellbeing. “The more we move, the healthier we are,” Dr Metzl writes. “Moving every day doesn’t just make us feel better, it is also among the most far-reaching and effective forms of preventive medicine.”

Our mental health can also be negatively affected by WFH. Human beings are social creatures and thrive on face-to-face interaction. As Dr Metzl explains: “Our brains thrive on in-person relationships.” Not only do we need personal contact for our emotional wellbeing, but seeing people face to face helps us professionally as we get to read people’s body language and are better able to understand this nuanced behaviour.

Tips for managers and WFH teams

Managing WFH or hybrid teams can be challenging. Creative team cohesiveness can make all the difference. Here are some tips for managers from the experts to ensure everyone’s mental wellbeing:

  • Take on more of a coach’s role than a manager’s role
  • Ensure that you and your team maximise your use of time, e.g., focus time vs time spent in online meetings
  • Excel when it comes to communication so that teams are aligned

For more information, read this article on managing remote teams.

If you are struggling with anxiety and depression due to changes in the workplace, please: