Home office (2)

A third of employees are concerned about their mental health while working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

The study, conducted by Aetna International, found that workers are most worried about gaining weight (43%) while working from home. Thirty-three per cent said their mental health was a concern, with 32% anxious about the levels of stress they experienced while working from home.

Employers also expressed concern for employee well-being with 40% 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.

As Covid-19 continues to spread across the globe, the majority of employees are placing a greater emphasis on their health and well-being. Eighty-four per cent said mental health is more important now than it was a year ago, with 89% agreeing for physical health.

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% 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% of employees in the US. And, 49% of employees in the UK agree that corporate physical health care provision is now more important compared to 69% 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 revealed that factors associated with the pandemic have had an increasingly negative effect:

  • 71% of respondents said worrying about being furloughed, pay cuts or losing their job has negatively affected their performance
  • 70% said that stress from being locked down alone has had a negative impact on their work
  • 47% 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:

  • 88% of 18-24-year-olds have had their work negatively affected by mental health issues compared to the 74% global average
  • 76% of 18-24-year-olds and 75% of 25-34-year-olds say stress from a blurred work/life balance has also negatively impacted their work compared to the 67% 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% 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% of employees at big businesses
  • 65% 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% 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, it is no surprise that the majority of workers expressed an eagerness to return to normality:

  • 61% of employees would like to return to the office full time within the next six months
  • 81% 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% to 48% when working in the office as opposed to working from home.

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.”

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