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Supporting employee mental health and wellbeing with flex

The pandemic has brought mental health and wellbeing to the fore with many employers thinking more directly about employee wellbeing and how this affects performance.

But mental health and wellbeing aren’t new issues for Scotland’s workforce.

Our figures show that pre-pandemic, one in five (19%) Scottish workers said they worked flexibly to help their mental health. While one in 20 (5%) said this was their main reason for doing so.

Similarly, more than a quarter (28%) worked flexibly before Covid to improve their wellbeing, while 7% said their wellbeing was their main reason for wanting flexibility at work.

 


Impact of the pandemic

After nearly 18 months of the threat of coronavirus, lockdowns, furlough, school closures, as well as the chance to work differently, such as home working, or shifting hours around home commitments, we’re expecting these figures to rise.

Flexible working can really support and enable people with mental health issues to enter the workforce and stay in work. But it’s also good for our general wellbeing and keeps us healthier.

Many employees have already sought flexibility at work to help manage a mental health condition, or to improve their wellbeing. And now in our conversations with employers, we’re hearing how many more are focusing on employee wellbeing as a direct result of the pandemic. We hope more people will feel confident to ask for flexibility. And that more employers will see how they benefit too.

Most people only want relatively small changes, such as a bit more home working, or to start and finish at slightly different times, so this doesn’t need to be scary prospect for employers. In return, they’ll get healthier employees who take less time off ill, and work more productively too.


Marianne’s story

A lack of flexibility at work left events manager Marianne Craig stressed and mentally exhausted after juggling her full-time job and looking after her child.

Marianne, 44, who lives near Edinburgh, with her husband and their young daughter, said: “I remember sobbing in my car as I queued in a traffic jam, worrying whether I’d get to my daughter’s nursery before it closed. She’d often be the last child there. It was heart-breaking. I knew plenty of other parents in the same situation too.

“I initially asked to reduce my hours but was told I had ‘applied for a full-time job’ so I opted instead for compressed hours. Later I requested one day working from home to make nursery pick-up a bit easier. Hours were already long in my role I was used to that. But taking time back was formal and not welcomed, so I often didn’t request what I was due. Latterly my one day at home was at risk because my new line manager preferred to ‘pop in to chat with his team’. I think that’s what tipped me over the edge. With the long hours and hassle and guilt about making a case for time back in lieu, that one day had felt like a lifeline.

“I ended up taking some time off because of stress and decided to see a counsellor. They helped me talk through how I felt and helped me build up a little bit of resilience to apply for something else. I hadn’t been looking for other jobs because I had lost a sense of my own value. I was in a really bad place.

“I took a temporary role with less responsibility and lower pay at ILF Scotland, because the job advert mentioned something about being family friendly.

“It took me a while to settle in because I found it hard to accept the level of trust that existed even for new staff. It was such a different approach. I had to prove myself, but only in terms of how well I did my job. When I asked for a day working from home, which had been a big deal in my old job, I was told ‘is that all? Of course, that’s ok’.

“ILF understands that work is part of your life, not your whole life. When I realised the culture was genuine, I wanted to stay. I’ve been promoted and now earn more than I did in my last job. But more importantly, I now understand my value and the knock-on effect on my mental health has been life-changing. I’m now in a great place and all it took was trust and kindness.

Marianne is now the privacy and improvement manager for ILF Scotland. The Scottish Government funded organisation provides funding for people with disabilities to help them live independently.


Can we help you?

If you want help increasing flexible working in your workplace, contact us for support on 0141 378 8330 or hello@flexibilityworks.org

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