Mental Health in the "new work" order

19 Jun 2020 12:45 pm

Mental health in the new “work order”

By Phetheni Nkuna, Director at Lawtons Africa and Faatimah Essack, Candidate attorney at Lawtons Africa, on behalf of LexisNexis South Africa

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a number of industries and organisations adopt virtual working over this period, but organisations will also need to take steps to safeguard employees’ mental health, say Phetheni Nkuna and Faatimah Essack of Lawtons Africa.

A survey reports that at least 35% of Japan’s workforce, known as the home of workaholics, say working from home has harmed their mental health. The most common cause is the inability to separate work and personal lives, social isolation and increased frustration resulting from difficulty in communicating with co-workers.

Other studies have found that employees are suffering from disrupted sleeping patterns, difficulty controlling moods, and dysphoria.

The move away from a typical office environment which is set up to effectively stimulate engagement in work, may increase mental strain due to the necessarily much higher levels of self-control required when working from home and lack of temporary detachment which is enabled by the daily routine of commute between home and the office.

Remote workers are reported to be working longer hours.

Employers who allow working from home will be extending an obligation of their duty to ensure the health and safety of workers as far as reasonably practicable, dependent on the circumstances and degree of risk. Failure to ensure this may give rise to legal action.

Added to this, is the obligation not to discriminate against employees who suffer from a mental condition. Mental illness may give rise to an incapacity process under the Labour Relations Act.

It is thus important to continuously monitor remote working employees to ensure accountability and early detection of mental issues that may require employers to invoke formal processes.

To access further insightful guidance around running a successful virtual working environment, visit the LexisNexis Virtual Working Resource page: https://www.lexisnexis.co.za/news-and-insights/virtual-working

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