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Companies close offices for paid ‘mental health’ week

Last week, Bumble closed its office to give staff a ‘much needed’ mental health break. Other companies are following suit despite reports that Gen-Z prefers office life to a work from home setting.

The founder of Bumble, the women-led dating app which employs 700 people worldwide, announced a fully paid, week long office closure to give staff time to focus on their mental wellbeing.

Following the business’s rapid economic growth in the last year, a senior executive said the move was ‘intuitive’, as there had been a ‘collective feeling of burnout’ amongst colleagues.

This isn’t the first time Bumble has displayed its acute awareness for mental health. Bumble’s work hours are not fixed from 9-5, with employees choosing work hours that suit them best – so as long as everything gets done.

Bumble’s offices also have a salon space where their ‘busy bee employees’ can enjoy complimentary manicures and hair treatments every two weeks. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Another company focusing on the importance of mental health is HubSpot, who is introducing its ‘Global Week of Rest’ from 5th – 9th of July. All employees will be given a paid week off to take time to recharge.

This week is part of its ‘HubSpot Unplugged’ initiative, which was shaped primarily by employee feedback. The company has highlighted how, despite the expectation of our return to normal life in 2021, things aren’t feeling much different for many of us.

To further combat the overwhelming feeling of returning to office, there will be no internal meetings on Fridays and newly offered mental health awareness sessions which will facilitate managing stress at work.

Now, it’s likely that such a heavy focus on wellbeing sounds too utopian for those accustomed to traditional workplaces.

But taking into account the fact that stress and other mental health issues are on the rise, it can’t be a negative thing that companies are striving to make corporate life more tolerable – especially when a large majority of adults spend most of their time in offices.

The pandemic has only amplified these sentiments. From the outset, making adjustments to working from home was a serious obstacle, inconveniencing many businesses.

However, many have welcomed the flexibility work-from-home life provides – such as cutting down on unpaid commuting times, plus additional personal and family time.

In some cases, remote working has proved that entire operations can run smoothly without sacrificing additional time and money. Many corporations have cut their expenses by cancelling their leases for rented office spaces altogether.

On the contrary, a recently published survey has revealed that Gen-Z is the keenest group to return back to traditional office work.

Seventy percent of those surveyed stated that the sense of community provided by office spaces leads to further productivity. Almost thirty percent reported they found it difficult to draw the line between personal and work times while working from home.

It is apparent that those benefitting most from at home working are Millennials and their older counterparts, many of whom have started families and invested in life-long homes.

But many Gen-Z members surveyed view traditional workplaces as vital to their identity. Over twenty five percent said that being in office gives them a sense of belonging and purpose.

As someone who completed my master’s degree almost exclusively from my living room sofa, I understand needing to feel a stronger sense of belonging to whichever category you fit into – whether you’re a university student or an employee.

Likewise, joining a company remotely has its obstacles, as the social element of work is completely removed. So, it’s unsurprising that thirty percent of Gen-Z’ers say they miss the relationship building component that office spaces provide.

Despite the affinity for workplace socials and Friday afternoons at the pub, across all age groups, flexibility in the workplace is now a fundamental priority for employees.

Big tech firm Twitter initially promised that its workers could continue working remotely if they chose to, however, its CEO recently retracted this statement in favour of a blended home and office work schedule.

Admittedly, nothing beats an in-person approach to meeting new colleagues in order to truly understand a company’s work environment and values.

But the pandemic has highlighted how working from home provides valuable benefits for new families and those who value personal time, or struggle with mental health problems.

It will be interesting to see how long remote working lasts in the post-pandemic world, a stage we haven’t fully arrived at yet. It’s clear that there is worth in traditional office spaces as well as days spent working in the comfort of our homes.

Perhaps we’ll see more large-scale companies addressing the mentally and emotionally taxing side that some workplaces foster, by incentivising mental health weeks off, wellbeing workshops, and the option for partial remote working.

The data speaks for itself – and only time will tell.


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