Mental health in UK tech deteriorates in lockdown

mental healthThe easing of lockdown restrictions and a return to offices is raising the stress levels of over a quarter of UK tech professionals (26 percent) at a time when over 1 in 3 (36 percent) report that their mental health has deteriorated during Covid-19, according to a new Harvey Nash Study. The relaxing of restrictions has left tech professionals worrying most about bringing Covid-19 back into the home, and the health risk of their daily commute.

The number of those tech professionals (60 percent) that have been/are concerned about their mental health has risen 16 percent from before the pandemic – this rise is equivalent to an increase of almost 200,000 of the UK’s tech workforce.

These reports are published in a new study by technology recruiter, Harvey Nash, in association with This Can Happen. The survey of 1,600 UK technology professionals comprised of – a wider survey prior to the Covid-19 global crisis, and then a Pulse Survey during the crisis to measure the mental wellness of UK Tech’s workforce in lockdown.

Other key claims include:

  • Concerned about mental health for the first ever time – Of those people (27 percent) actively concerned about their mental wellbeing now, 35 percent say this is the first ever time they have been concerned.
  • For 1 in 10 the stress they’re feeling is negatively impacting on their work – This is almost twice as likely to apply to permanent workers as to IT contractors.
  • IT roles under most pressure – Those in Project/Programme Management or IT Operational roles, who were under most strain to rapidly move large workforces into remote/virtual environments, have seen their mental health affected the most. Prior to the crisis, 1 in 5 workers in IT Operations were concerned about their mental health, but this has risen to around 1 in 3 as a result of Covid-19

Although 56 percent of companies have increased the level of personal/emotional/home working support provided during the crisis, half still don’t provide formal support for mental health issues. This is having a significant impact, with three quarters (75 percent) of those working for unsupportive companies being either concerned about their mental health now or in the past. This drops by a quarter amongst very supportive companies. Staff at unsupportive companies are also more likely to have seen their mental health deteriorate during lockdown.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”With less face-to-face contact, it is harder for managers to pick up on the signs that someone is struggling”[/perfectpullquote]

Chris Seel, a Director at Harvey Nash Group, said: “The ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic are far-reaching and people are already feeling the strain, many of them for the first time. Whilst it’s encouraging that the majority of businesses have increased the levels of support they provide, there remains much further to go.

Employers are frequently good at introducing informal support mechanisms such as online resources or voluntary networks, but providing formal support such as counselling is harder to do and costlier as well. With staff having moved to remote working – and likely to spend more time working remotely on an ongoing basis – the task becomes more difficult still. Individuals are less likely to reach out for support if that first, immensely difficult conversation needs to be by phone or video call. Mental health support becomes much more difficult at the time when it is needed most.”

Zoe Sinclair, Co-Founder, This Can Happen, added: “It’s encouraging to see that 56 percent of companies have increased the level of personal and emotional support to their employees. However, at such an uncertain time we believe that this figure should be much higher as looking after your employees’ mental health should be a top priority for all businesses.”

Harvey Nash suggest that prior to the crisis, the single highest cause of stress was the perennial issue of being short of staff, however during the crisis, the top three causes changed markedly to:

  • Not having any time to personally switch off (46 percent)
  • Worrying about losing their job (41 percent)
  • ‘Always on’ technology (33 percent)

Around a third of those tech professionals with children also reported that caring for/home schooling children is one of the main causes of their stress. With schools only opening up for a limited number of children in June, this issue is likely to continue for most.