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Hybrid work environments are a haven for LGBTQIA+ wellbeing

Written by CEO Albert Kruger

Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace is a big issue…

One in five Australians (20.1%/4.8 million) had reported mental or behavioural conditions in 2019 and evidence shows us that this has increased during 2020-2021 due to the pandemic. Statistics published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed that between 16 March 2020 and 19 September 2021, 21.0 million MBS mental health-related services were processed nationally.

Mental Health and Wellbeing is a major concern for Australian workplaces, due to its negative impacts on individuals. In 2019-2020, around 88% of worker’s compensation claims involved mental health disorders that were related to work and mental stress, according to Safe Work Australia. The World Health Organization found that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

And we know that LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to experience mental health issues than their heterosexual counterparts. A 2021 analysis of NHS data in the UK found that LGBTQIA+ are twice as likely as heterosexuals to have a long-term mental health condition.

Mental Health and Wellbeing is an undeniable issue that has been misunderstood in the business world – until recently. Since the impact of COVID-19, there’s been a shift in focus, for companies and staff, towards people-centric policies.

One of the major improvements for maintaining mental wellbeing in LGBTQIA+ staff has been a shift to hybrid working models, where staff can nominate days in the office and days working from home.

Office environments can be a minefield for LGBTQIA+ people…

Office environments can be tricky to navigate, even for the most socially accepted and savvy of us. But when you’re a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there can be an added layer of complexity added on.

Micro-aggressions, slurs and implicit and explicit biases make it hard for LGBTQIA+ people to feel like they can be themselves and be open about who they are.

One LinkedIn survey of 2,001 LBGTQIA+ professionals found that nearly a quarter, 24%, were not open about their identity in their workplace, while a similar share, 26%, worried being open would cause coworkers to treat them differently. Many cited concerns of being overlooked for raises or promotions. And nearly a third, 31%, say they’ve faced blatant discrimination or micro aggressions at work.

How working from home can benefit LGBTQIA+ staff…

For LGBTQIA+ people, working from home has many benefits.

Fewer office run-ins with strangers also means fewer judgments based on appearance, or even well-intentioned comments that can come off as micro-aggressions.

People can also feel more comfortable being open about who they are in a digital space as opposed to in the flesh. We know this. Surveys have shown that when LGBTQIA+ people feel free to be open at work it helps them connect with others, find a support network and build stronger professional relationships.

For Non-Binary, Trans and Gender Diverse people, having the ability to display their pronouns digitally while working remotely, via email signature or staff profile, means they don’t have the pressure of having to introduce their pronouns face to face to staff members again and again.

But working from home full time can create a feeling of isolation, and that’s something to be very wary of, particularly after the last two years of lockdowns.

The wellbeing benefits of a hybrid work environment…

A hybrid working environment allows opportunities for people to create their own lifestyle and improve their work/life balance. We know that working from home can improve happiness of employees and foster a culture of trust. It’s also important to provide access to the office to enable more effective collaboration, encourage team-building and lower social isolation, especially after the COVID-19 lockdowns. Additionally, this hybrid working model allows employers to create a greater sense of purpose to return to the office on an ad-hoc basis to maintain personal connection with the team and organisation.

Interpersonal relationships are crucial in protecting our mental health. Friends, family and loved ones can keep us grounded, help us keep things in perspective, and help us manage the problems that life throws at us. Nurturing our relationships after the COVID-19 lockdowns should be a priority for everyone. A hybrid model can help with this because when you’re working from home, often you’re surrounded by your support network.

If there’s one good thing to have come out of the pandemic, it’s that we’re all taking our own mental health more seriously. We’re making time to check in on ourselves and those in our networks, and businesses are becoming acutely aware of how important mental wellbeing is.

Self-care has become a priority, and it should remain a priority for us all.

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We pay our respects to Elders past and present and recognise the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities.

Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land.

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Acknowledgement of country

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras acknowledges that our events take place on Aboriginal land. We acknowledge the Gadigal, Cammeraygal, Bidigal, Darug and Dharawal people who are the Traditional Custodians of the Sydney Basin.

We pay our Respects to their Elders past and present. Always was Always will be Aboriginal Land.