The post-pandemic return to work – how to prioritise mental health
October 21, 2022 | Tristan Marris
With almost all COVID rules and restrictions now lifted here in New Zealand, there is an atmosphere of getting back to normal and getting back to life as it used to be.
But should we?
Life pre-COVID was busy and stressful for many of us. Lockdown was the great re-set that we needed to re-evaluate our priorities and find a healthier level of work-life balance.
The virus made us think more carefully about our physical health and safety. But even more so, we’re paying attention to our mental health now more than ever.
We’re getting back to work in different ways
Returning to the workplace after lockdown looks different for all organisations. But there’s no denying that boundaries and expectations around when and where we work have shifted.
Employees have taken the opportunity to ask for flexibility in their work location and hours, while employers now have evidence of the many benefits of allowing staff to work remotely.
What’s great to see is that as we’re navigating these new ways of working, there has been increased focus on mental health.
So how does coworking help with mental health?
There are a few key things that affect our mental health, and studies that have come out of the pandemic reinforce these. Fortunately, coworking contributes positively to all of these.
Research shows that people who experience regular human interaction live longer and healthier lives. We all treasure a bit of solitude from time to time, but for long-term wellness, one of the key factors in mental health is connection with others.
For freelancers, self-employed people and small enterprise owners, coworking spaces provide a space to connect, collaborate, brainstorm and just have someone to talk to. You don’t even need to actually talk. Simply being in the same room as other people invokes a feeling of belonging and community.
We feel better when we feel in control. You can use words like freedom, independence, flexibility or empowerment. Whatever you choose to call it, having the flexibility and authority to decide when and where you work does wonders for your mental health. In turn, being trusted to manage your own time improves morale and productivity.
During the pandemic and lockdown, many of us were able to escape the nine-to-five grind and find time for neglected leisure activities. Instead of sitting in traffic at either end of the day, we used those hours for physical exercise, hobbies, family time, cooking proper meals, catching up on sleep, etc.
While coworking spaces aren’t the panacea, in many ways they help keep those healthy habits incorporated in your day. Flexible work arrangements, a location that is inviting and easy to get to, a workspace free of office politics, and a group of supportive and diverse office mates – together, these factors create a work environment that helps eliminate, rather than add to, your stress levels.