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Tackling physical and mental health issues during lockdown

9 April 2020: Rethinking performance targets, active listening and regular contact with colleagues are among the measures recommended to tackle the increasing physical and mental issues suffered by UK accountants two weeks into the lockdown.

Just two weeks into the government’s enforced lockdown, a survey has unearthed a huge rise in musculoskeletal complaints and declining mental health among the UK’s homeworkers.

The findings from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) unearthed a worrying snapshot of declining mental and physical health among employees now working from home, with over half reporting new aches and pains, especially in the neck, shoulder and back.

Diet and exercise levels have also taken a turn for the worse with 60% admitting they exercised less, while almost one in three (30%) were eating a less nutritious diet. One in five admitted that they were drinking more alcohol than before the coronavirus outbreak.

Poor sleep and increased risk of exhaustion are also on the rise with the majority of the 500 respondents (64%) reporting a lack of sleep due to worries with a similar increase in symptoms of fatigue. Some 48% also admitted to working long and irregular hours.

Mental health was also found to be suffering, with half saying they were unhappy with their current work-life balance. A third admitted to frequently feeling isolated, while a fifth are worried about job security.

The Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association (CABA) said that over the past few weeks, the charity’s support officers have been fielding an increased level of calls from accountants, with most seeking assistance on issues such as benefit advice and debt support.

Kelly Feehan, CABA services director, said: “Now more than ever, we need to be honest with ourselves and reach out for support when we need it. At the same time, we should endeavour to extend this compassion to those around us, as we all work together to adjust to the current new way of living.

“Active listening and unconditional support are essential to our members. We’ve been helping people to make the most of home working over the past few weeks, helping them to find effective ways of working around their kids, and other members of their household.” 

Among IES’s recommendations for employers to make employees’ home working lives better are the provision of mental health support via informal messaging groups, access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and regular contact with management and colleagues.

It also suggests a “rethink of performance targets and monitoring and to involve employees in decisions about reorganising work and the reallocation of tasks and priorities.”

ICAEW and their families wishing to talk about their financial situation or any other concerns can email CABA at enquiries@caba.org.uk or telephone its 24-hour helpline on 01788 556 366.