How has 2020 impacted employee wellbeing?
- 93% of UK employees have faced new wellbeing challenges in 2020
- The most common new wellbeing challenges faced are feeling less connected to company/colleagues, increased loneliness/feelings of isolation and increased financial concerns
- The 18-24 year age group currently reports the poorest wellbeing of all age groups, across all elements of wellbeing
- While 84% of employees said employers addressed coronavirus with them, just 34% have announced a back-to-work plan so far
- Despite economic downfalls, almost half (48%) of UK employees maintain strong financial wellbeing
- A huge 60% of UK employees ‘never’ worked from home before the pandemic, now just 9% want to work from the office full time in the future
- Employees within the industries hardest hit by lockdown – retail, catering and hospitality, and leisure, sport and tourism – are currently experiencing poor financial and mental wellbeing
- Those who don’t feel trusted to be as productive at home as they were in work suffer from poor mental wellbeing, compared to those who feel completely trusted by their employer to work well from home
The coronavirus pandemic and following lockdown situation has changed life as we know it in the UK over the past three months.
For most, this has brought a complete change to working routines. Employees have been asked to quickly adapt to a new normal – whether this is changes in the workspace or adapting to working from home full time.
The potential wellbeing impacts of this uncharted territory are vast.
In order to find out how the UK’s workforce is feeling, Perkbox surveyed 13,271 employees to discover what impact the events of 2020 have had on wellbeing. We also wanted to find out if they’re gaining the support they need from their employer and how this period of time has changed how they would like to work in the future.
How is the UK’s wellbeing in the current climate?
Wellbeing is defined as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.” However, it’s important to acknowledge that wellbeing is a very broad concept and encompasses different elements to make up wellbeing as a whole.
The main elements of wellbeing include:
- Mental wellbeing: your mental state – including how you’re feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life
- Financial wellbeing: a sense of security and feeling as though you have enough money to meet your needs
- Physical wellbeing: relating to physical health and fitness
- Social wellbeing: how connected you feel to those around you
The mental wellbeing impacts of the global pandemic are being felt most strongly by 18-24 year olds
From health and safety fears, isolation and disruption to routine, the potential mental wellbeing impacts of the global pandemic are endless.
23% of UK employees are currently experiencing poor mental wellbeing, while 24% feel that it’s ‘neither good nor poor’.
Looking into those most affected, younger age groups currently rate their mental wellbeing most poorly across all age groups. 31% of 18-24 year olds are currently experiencing poor mental wellbeing – significantly higher than the average, alongside over a quarter (26%) of 25-34 year olds. In comparison, just 13% of the 55+ age group say the same.
Coronavirus, Brexit and Black Lives Matter have all negatively impacted mental health in 2020
It’s important to note that coronavirus has not been the only event in 2020 to affect the mental wellbeing of the UK.
A huge 73% state that coronavirus has negatively impacted their mental health, followed by Brexit (29%), and Black Lives Matter (27%). 1 in 10 were also affected by the Australian bush fires.
When it comes to employers' reactions to these events, while 84% of employees said their company addressed coronavirus, just 34% said they were aware of a back-to-work plan. This could be causing a greater impact on mental wellbeing as employees are left feeling anxious about the future.
Moreover, less than a third (32%) of employees state that their employer has a diversity and inclusion strategy, with only 22% of businesses addressing Black Lives Matter.
As these matters go unaddressed by some employers, increased anxiety and stress is felt by employees. They’ll start to feel unsure of their employer's standpoint and how this will affect them, their colleagues and their customers in the future.
Despite economic downfalls, almost half of UK employees maintain good financial wellbeing
Lockdown paralysed the economy, with UK GDP falling by a record amount in April 2020. The country has already started to see some of the effects of this, and it has the potential to put many more businesses and roles in danger.
It’s important to be aware of the effects that this can have on employees’ personal wellbeing and how financially secure they feel.
Almost half (48%) would currently rate their financial wellbeing as good – highlighting that many may be currently enjoying the reduced costs of commuting and daily expenses involved with normal everyday life. A further 15% are experiencing poor financial wellbeing, with an additional 27% stating ‘neither good nor poor’.
Again, those aged 18-24 are most likely to currently rate their financial wellbeing as poor. Over 1 in 5 (21%) in this age group currently feel insecure financially, compared to 15% of 25-34 year olds and 13% of the 45-54 age group.
Moreover, those employed within the industries hardest hit by lockdown restrictions have also experienced repercussions on their personal financial wellbeing.
Just under a quarter (24%) of employees who work in the retail, catering and hospitality industries and a quarter of those employed in leisure, sport and tourism are currently experiencing poor financial wellbeing.
A quarter of Brits rate their physical and social wellbeing as ‘poor’
Despite the health risks and as movement and exercise restrictions during lockdown brought a halt to the normal physical activity routines for many, 49% of employees describe themselves as currently being within good physical wellbeing. A further quarter of UK adults rate their physical wellbeing as poor.
Of course, lockdown restrictions did not just affect physical activity, with social activities as we know them also being put on pause during the pandemic.
As we spend over a third of our lives at work, many employees often get their fill of daily social interaction from colleagues and customers, alongside activities with friends and family. This being taken away for many during lockdown highlighted just how important this is, with a quarter of Brits experiencing poor social wellbeing this year.
Overall, 93% of employees have faced new wellbeing challenges in 2020
The effects of the pandemic have caused many to have to navigate different situations and challenges, both within personal and professional lives.
New wellbeing challenges faced by employees in 2020:
(select as many as apply)
1. Feeling less connected to company/colleagues: 41%
2. Increased loneliness/feelings of isolation: 38%
3. Increased financial concerns: 38%
4. Burnout due to balancing work/life in a home environment: 37%
5. Impact on physical health due to less movement/activity: 35%
6. Increased struggle of staying productive/engaged: 35%
7. More stress due to taking on extra responsibilities at work: 27%
8. Fear of safety when returning to work: 25%
9. Fear of health and safety at work: 24%
10. Juggling homeschooling children/childcare with work: 17%
11. More stress due to not having the right equipment/resources: 16%
12. Feeling that I am not treated equally to my colleagues: 11%
Just 7% have not faced any new wellbeing challenges in 2020 displaying the severity of effects of the pandemic to wellbeing, not just physical health.
Looking further into those facing the top wellbeing challenges, employees working within the leisure, sport and tourism industries (58%) and retail, catering and hospitality industries (54%) have been most affected by increased financial concerns.
Moreover, over half (52%) of 18-24 year olds have experienced increased loneliness/feelings of isolation in 2020, followed by 44% of 25-34 year olds and 36% of the 35-44 age group. This compared to a quarter of 55+ experiencing this wellbeing challenge, highlighting that the pandemic truly is affecting each demographic in different ways.
Employees who feel trusted by employers have stronger mental wellbeing while working from home
Overall, 88% of employees feel that their employer has looked after them well during the pandemic so far, with many managers and employers taking extra steps to support employees in light of coronavirus.
Top 10 steps employees say their manager or employer have taken to support them in light of coronavirus:
(select as many as apply)
- Checked in with me more to see how I am coping - 45%
- Implemented regular catch-ups about work - 45%
- Allowed more flexibility in working hours - 33%
- Organised social meetings/activities to maintain good communication between teams - 32%
- Provided access to tools to help me improve my wellbeing (e.g. mindfulness apps, fitness apps, online resources) - 28%
- Become more compassionate and taken a softer people approach - 19%
- Allowed more flexibility in taking holiday/time off - 15%
- Closely monitored my workload to make sure I am up to date with work - 15%
- Given access to free therapy - 12%
- Improved employee assistance programmes (EAP) - 11%
For those who have made the switch to working from home, positively, most employees (75%) feel that their employer trusts them to be as productive at home as they are normally. Just 8% feel that their employer does not trust them.
Delving deeper into this data, the study revealed just how important this feeling of trust is to employees’ mental wellbeing.
Half of those who feel their employer completely distrusts them to be as productive when working from home as they would be in the office, currently experience poor mental wellbeing.
On the other hand, of those who feel completely trusted by their employer to be as productive at home as they are in the workplace, the majority (61%) currently hold good mental wellbeing.
These wellbeing challenges have led to different requirements from employees in the future
It’s been called the ‘world's largest work-from-home experiment’ and now many are asking, what are the results?
Our study found that out of 13,271 UK employees, a huge 60% ‘never’ worked from home before the pandemic.
Now just 9% of these employees would like to work completely from the office in the future.
23% would now like to work from home two days a week, followed by 18% who think three days a week working from home is the ideal in the future.
Quite the shift.
This time has also caused employees to think about their most important requirements from an employer.
Top elements that employees find most important to attract them to a job in the future in 2020:
1. Financial wellbeing initiatives: 67%
2. Competitive salary: 65%
3. Flexible hours: 57%
4. Training and development: 53%
5. Career development opportunities: 51%
6. Remote working options: 48%
7. Emotional wellbeing initiatives: 46%
8. Social wellbeing initiatives: 42%
9. Workplace wellbeing initiatives: 41%
10. The organisation having a purpose: 34%
11. Physical wellbeing initiatives: 29%
12. Having a diverse workforce: 25%
13. Having a firm stance on social issues: 16%
14. Organisation supporting charities: 13%
15. Having a prime office location: 11%
‘Financial wellbeing initiatives’ takes the first place as most important to employees – highlighting how the pandemic and following effects may have caused many employees to think about how their employer supports them financially. 'Financial wellbeing initiatives' coming above 'competitive salary' as a more important attraction for employees shows just how much employees value financial support and feeling secure in their finances, particularly due to the potential recession that may follow, making pay rises a rarity.
‘Flexible hours’ (57%) and ‘remote working options’ (48%) are also high on the list of priorities for employees in the future, with ‘prime office location’ being ranked as the least important requirement to employees – reinforcing the seemingly overwhelming desire to move away from the traditional ‘9-5’ working routine.
So what does the future hold?
As part of our New Working World series, we’ll be producing a series of surveys to track employee sentiment towards wellbeing as we move into a work post-coronavirus. This is being run alongside a survey of UK employers to see the business perspective on the wellbeing impact of 2020’s events.
Our first of four ‘Workplace wellbeing reports’ which compares this data to what employers are doing is available now and you can get your copy here.
Further reading: 20 Employee Wellbeing Initiatives To Implement At Work