Vast Majority of Remote Workers Now Talking About Mental Health at Work due to COVID, says Hubspot Report

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It seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has one surprising upside: it smashed the stigma about talking about mental health in the workplace. As more companies consider remote work long-term, this could have profound impacts on how wellness and mental health factor into the employer-employee relationship. New research by Hubspot dove into the mental health question, among other things, in its 2020 Remote Work Report

Since COVID began, 81% of people report talking about mental health at work regularly (38%) or occasionally (43%). Considering we’re staring down a COVID-related mental health fallout, the fact that these conversations are happening is beneficial. This is a huge change from a 2018 study that found 64% of workers feared discussing mental health at work due to stigma concerns.

talking about mental health has increased due to the pandemic, according to Hubspot
Source: 2020 Remote Work Report by Hubspot

It also seems these conversations are being followed up with action. Survey respondents largely feel that employers give them flexibility to take breaks when necessary (25% strongly agree and 42% agree, while 21% are neutral). Further, 64% of employees feel supported by their manager and/or employer through the pandemic (only 11% rate feeling unsupported).

People rating high levels of support appears to be paying dividends for employers as well. Less than half (46%) report feeling like work performance has been negatively impacted. When asked the cause of negative performance, 24% said it was due to technical difficulties and 24% said it was due to communication troubles. 

Talking about mental health isn’t all remote workers want

So far, culture seems to be holding steady amidst the pandemic. However, cracks are showing. 32% of respondents felt that they have been disconnected from company culture since the pandemic began, and 26% are neutral. This opens a large gap for building culture on remote and hybrid teams. Despite nearly a third saying they feel disconnected, 42% say they don’t feel disconnected, so clearly something is working for at least some companies.

For companies looking to hire in the pandemic, it seems that key demands haven’t changed. At the top of the list: work-life balance, with 30% saying it’s the most important characteristic of company culture. This is perhaps more important than ever as working from home comes with its own unique challenges. Salary came second, with 22% indicating it was a critical factor. Commitment to diversity came in third, with 20% saying it was critical. Interestingly, benefits and perks came in last, with only 2% saying it was a critical factor.

Work-life balance being number one doesn’t seem that odd when you consider the toll the pandemic has taken on people. In the survey, 73% have taken on childcare or caregiving responsibilities. Further, 37% have taken less than a week off since March 2020. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, 30% feel more burnt out and stressed as a result of the pandemic. 

Performance and promotions

The survey found a mixed bag when asking about whether remote work affected career progression. 49% said being remote has not impacted their career progression and 11% said it even helped them get a promotion. However, 40% said it’s been a barrier. 

One potential reason, according to the survey, is employers not considering the big picture. 49% of employees say they worry employers will grade their work performance without taking fully into account their home situation and other pandemic struggles. Given that many people feel their performance has slipped during the pandemic, this concern could lead to people feeling like being remote has hindered their career progression. This concern may also be why 65% of employees say that employers should be doing more to support parents and caregivers during the pandemic.

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