October 10 recently marked World Mental Health Day. For me, it was a reminder to think about mental health in general, how we need to look after it, much like our own bodies, and how important it is to talk about things and get help if you are struggling.
Whilst the general direction of the pandemic is looking more positive, the increased anxiety, stress and isolation that it has brought has had a longer lasting impact on people’s mental health – one in four adults report that their mental health is markedly worse than pre-pandemic.
For those working, how we engage with our fellow employees and the quality of our working set up, whether in the office or at home, can have a big impact on our job satisfaction and with it our mental health. For some, colleagues may be the only people they interact with in a day. This is where having the correct technology is pivotal for businesses, in helping to facilitate conversations with colleagues and improve a sense of inclusion, alongside helping to provide tools that help to improve body posture, boosting comfort, and with it, mental wellbeing.
Earlier this year the Office for National Statistics released a map charting the UK’s skyrocketing levels of loneliness. While many have welcomed the flexibility of remote working, it’s clear that others have suffered a lack of connection with colleagues.
This has spurred many to consider adopting hybrid models where employees can enjoy a mix of remote and office working, but those working from home shouldn’t feel excluded from colleagues who are at the office.
When it comes to maintaining a solid social connection remotely, email and instant messaging aren’t enough. Humans are social creatures by nature, and we’re programmed to react to facial expressions and body language. Quality video that is also easy to use is therefore a great tool for facilitating this body language communication, and helping to tackle any feelings of loneliness. Simply making eye contact and having what feels like a face-to-face conversation can have a great impact on your sense of inclusion.
If we understand wellbeing as ‘feeling good and functioning well’ that means also reflecting on our physical health. Yet the pandemic has clearly taken as much of a toll on our bodies as it has on our minds. In fact, the two are intertwined. Numerous studies support the idea that preventing musculoskeletal issues, and the associated pain and discomfort has a direct impact on mental health.
Businesses should provide mice and keyboards that have ergonomic influences in their design, as they go a long way to mitigating these issues. Consider this: the average office worker moves their mouse an average of 100 feet per working day. That’s six miles every year, going up to 17 miles for a heavy user, with annual average keystrokes ranging between 2-3 million. We use our mouse and keyboard a lot, and if they’re bad fitting, they’ll cause a lot of strain over time.
For businesses this means investing for the future and supporting employees’ wellbeing through peripherals designed to compliment the natural body formation. For mice, they should consider something that moulds to the hand, supporting the thumb and wrist. There are also options for keyboards to be split, which allow arms and wrists to rest naturally and reduce stress on neck and shoulder muscles too. In turn, this will help to promote efficiency, performance and usability amongst employees.
World Mental Health Day may have been and gone, but mental health is an important issue that needs to be supported all year long, like our physical health. To do so, technology for hybrid working must take a holistic, human-centred and science-driven approach. This requires a shift in what constitutes a workspace, and ensuring that wherever people work is fit for purpose and supportive of wellbeing.