How Covid-19 has launched Portsmouth's plea for a better work-life balance

PORTSMOUTH must learn from the pandemic and shift its cultural balance of life and work in favour of family and leisure, survey respondents have said.
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Of the 1,043 people who took The News’ post-lockdown poll, The Big Conversation, 83.43 per cent said future action to shift the work-life balance is either important or very important.

It comes after workers in a whopping 9.6million British job roles were furloughed between April and October as coronavirus restrictions affected businesses across the UK.

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Further millions have found themselves working at home – often in the unfamiliar daytime company of loved ones – as they followed lockdown instructions from the prime minister.

Francesca Blackburn, the adult services lead for Havant and East Hannts Mind. Picture: Havant and East Hants MindFrancesca Blackburn, the adult services lead for Havant and East Hannts Mind. Picture: Havant and East Hants Mind
Francesca Blackburn, the adult services lead for Havant and East Hannts Mind. Picture: Havant and East Hants Mind

Francesca Blackburn, the adult services lead at the Havant and East Hampshire branch of the mental health charity, Mind, said the survey figures reflect early trends that could help the nation’s wellbeing.

‘We have noticed the start of a cultural shift away from placing so much focus on work, which could be really beneficial for people’s work-life balance and their overall mental health in the future,' she told The News.

‘Within our Adults’ Wellbeing service, which offers daytime support and person-centred recovery planning, for people actively job hunting they are finding it challenging and the uncertainty of the future stressful.

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These businesses in Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport, Havant and the rest of Hampshi...

‘However, people who are working from home in secure jobs have been really positive about the work-life balance – those struggling with their mental health have a “safe” environment to work from.

‘It allows people to be more flexible, spend more time with children and relatives and in some cases be more productive, however some feedback has been that it is even more important to implement work/home boundaries.

‘Our team has also noticed employers are encouraging their staff to seek support for their mental health and giving them the space and time to do so, which is important in this climate and very encouraging.'

Issues around work and employment are becoming more frequent among adults presenting with mental health issues, Francesca said.

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And although the pandemic has brought greater flexibility for some, others continue to face fierce work pressures.

She added: ‘We have seen that although work is not the main factor, it is a big contributing stressor, and the impact of losing work and searching for employment adds pressure onto those already struggling with their mental health, or with undiagnosed or underlying issues.’

Sixty-eight per cent of Big Conversation respondents also said less emphasis on office-based work, in favour of flexible home working, is important or very important in the future.

Sarah McFeely, a business manager at recruiter Hays’ branch in Portsmouth, said firms taking on new employees are already beginning to offer more flexibility because of the effects of Covid-19.

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‘Before coronavirus, businesses were very set on people coming to the office and doing their full 40 hours, I don’t believe there was much flexibility,’ she told The News.

‘But this situation has opened some businesses' eyes because they’re realising people can do good work at home, and many now want that choice.

‘People are getting comfortable being able to roll out of bed and go downstairs to their living room.’

Sarah added: ‘For me personally, working from home has been great because I’m not running out of the door and sitting in traffic every day, but I’ve enjoyed being able to come into the office when I can.

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‘If this kind of flexibility becomes a normal thing, I think it’s going to create a really good way of life for a lot of people.'

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