November 25, 2020
In a recent survey of 4,000 office-based employees and 1,000 employers in the UK, U.S, Singapore and the UAE, a third of employees expressed concern for their mental health whilst working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research, conducted by health benefits provider, Aetna International, examines the perceptions of both employers and employees when it comes to corporate health and well-being.
With many employees across the globe working from home for the foreseeable future, the study claims which health concerns workers are struggling with the most as well as the many different pressures affecting their performance. As employees look to overcome the hurdles associated with remote working and the pandemic, the results of the survey highlight the crucial areas where employers need to improve their practices in order to help workers face these new challenges.
The top health concerns for remote workers
Many employees believe that remote working is having serious effects on their health and well-being with 43 percent of employees being worried about gaining weight whilst working from home, the top health concern across the globe.
33 percent are concerned about mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. 32 percent are worried about the level of stress experienced whilst working from home.
Employers also expressed concern for employee well-being with 40 percent agreeing that they are worried the lack of social interaction with colleagues will have a long-term negative impact on some of their employees’ mental health.
The increasing importance of physical and mental health
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, the majority of employees are placing a greater emphasis on their health and well-being with 84 percent agreeing that their mental health is more important now than it was a year ago and 89 percent of employees agreeing that their physical health is more important now than it was a year ago.
Interestingly, employees in the UK have the most conservative views about the value of employer-provided benefits to support workers’ mental and physical health. Just 55 percent of employees in the UK agree that corporate mental health care provision is more important now than it was a year ago compared to 75 percent of employees in the U.S. 49 percent of employees in the UK agree that corporate physical health care provision is now more important compared to 69 percent of employees in the U.S and Singapore.
How remote working is affecting employee performance
When asked about the different ways everyday life and work-related pressures have impacted their performance at work since the outbreak of COVID-19, employees said that factors associated with the pandemic have had an increasingly negative effect.
71 percent of respondents said worrying about being furloughed, pay cuts or losing their job has negatively affected their performance. 70 percent said that stress from being locked down alone has had a negative impact on their work. 47 percent said stress from the challenge of juggling work and home-schooling children has also negatively impacted their performance.
Younger employees admitted that their work is suffering on an even larger scale whilst working from home during the pandemic with 88 percent of 18-24-year-olds having had their work negatively affected by mental health issues compared to the 74 percent global average. 76 percent of 18-24-year-olds and 75 percent of 25-34-year-olds say stress from a blurred work/life balance has also negatively impacted their work compared to the 67 percent global average.
Small vs big businesses
Employees working for small businesses (those with under 200 employees) are experiencing increased stress whilst working from home compared to those employees working for the biggest businesses (those with over 5,000 employees).
73 percent of employees at small businesses have had their work negatively impacted by stress as a result of working long hours during the pandemic compared to 61 percent of employees at big businesses. 65 percent of those working for small businesses say their work has been negatively affected after being expected to do more with less because of budget cuts compared to 51 percent of employees at big businesses.
Returning to the office
With pressures such as home-schooling children, social isolation and increased working hours having significant effects on employee stress levels, the majority of workers expressed an eagerness to return to normality.
61 percent of employees would like to return to the office full time within the next six months. 81 percent agreed that they would return to the office if they could still work remotely for part of the week.
Despite this, concerns about catching COVID-19 jump from 16 percent to 48 percent when working in the office as opposed to working from home.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives”
Dr Hemal Desai, Global Medical Director, Aetna International, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives, particularly employment conditions and our day-to-day working practices. With many employees suffering from some form of mental and physical health issues whilst working from home, our findings serve as a reminder to employers that there is much to be done when it comes to protecting their workers’ well-being.
As restrictions continue across the globe, pressures facing employees will have a cumulative effect and continue to escalate. Forward-thinking organisations are seizing this opportunity to better understand the differing needs across their workforce and provide relevant health care services alongside tailored health and well-being benefits to support their employees, both now and in the long term.”