Working under lockdown is straining mental health

New researchdeskless worker from Quinyx, claims to reveal the impact coronavirus is having on the mental health of the UK’s “deskless workers.” The research indicates that a pre-existing mental health issue among workers is being made worse as a result of the lockdown. Prior to the outbreak, 38 percent of remote workers said that their job had negatively impacted their mental health in the last twelve months. Since the outbreak, more than half of respondents (52 percent) say that coronavirus has made this worse.

Potential contributing factors vary depending on whether a worker has been classed as essential or non-essential during the pandemic. According to the research, sectors with more essential than non-essential deskless workers include warehousing, shipping, healthcare and transportation. For instance, 84 percent of respondents in the healthcare sector identified themselves as essential workers, compared to just 21 percent of those in the hospitality sector.

For the essential workers polled – who have continued to go to work during the crisis – longer hours seem to be having a negative impact. Prior to the pandemic, 37 percent of those who said their job had negatively impacted their mental health over the past 12 months said being expected to work extremely long hours was a contributing factor. In the current crisis, essential workers are three and a half times more likely than non-essential workers to be taking on more than 40 hours of work a week. Unsurprisingly, long working hours are having the biggest impact on deskless essential workers in healthcare, with over a quarter (26 percent) reporting having to work over 40 hours a week.


Pay is the thing

For non-essential workers, reduction in pay or loss of sales appears to be a contributing factor. Prior to the outbreak, 43 percent of workers who said their job had negatively impacted their mental health over the past 12 months, said that low pay was one of the biggest reasons and 20 percent of them said they experienced stress because they were not getting as many shifts as they would like. Since the outbreak, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of non-essential workers have been impacted in this way, with 39 percent reporting cuts to pay or hours and 38 percent saying they have been furloughed.

For non-essential workers, who are more likely to have been furloughed than essential workers (38 percent compared to 4 percent), job security could also be playing a part. Non-essential workers are less likely than essential workers to be planning to or know if they will stay in their jobs long term (1-3 years; 50 percent compared to 65 percent). They are also slightly more likely to think that their employer does not value the work they do. Not feeling appreciated was identified as a key reason for poor mental health in relation to work by 53 percent of workers prior to Covid-19.

Against a backdrop of significant hygiene and safety concerns and childcare challenges, a lack of flexibility at work and poor employee communications could also be contributing factors for some workers. The research found that remote workers in the sectors that have experienced the biggest declines in mental health – shipping & distribution (56 percent of workers say they have experienced a decline) and warehousing (57 percent) – are also most likely to say that their employer has not offered greater or enough flexibility during the crisis or provided them with clear communications on company policies related to Covid-19.

The research also claims that many employers have not provided frontline workers with the training and direction they need to effectively do their job during the crisis – as cited by 39 percent of essential “deskless workers”. This could be due to a number of factors, including challenges around keeping up with fast-evolving government guidelines.