Whilst many of us have had our normal work routines turned upside down over the past few months, there’s been a handful of workers who’ve carried on going in.
From the doctors, nurses and support staff in hospitals to the post workers, refuse collectors and supermarket staff, continuing to work in the middle of a pandemic whilst everyone else is at home has taken its toll on key workers.
Whether it’s feeling like they’re missing out on family time or worrying about being left behind when everyone else returns, this group need careful consideration in any return to work strategy to keep them engaged and feeling appreciated.
Our Divided Together report asked 1500 people how lockdown has impacted their mental health, the reasons why and how they were feeling about the future of work. Here are the key findings for those who’ve continued going into work.
Want all the facts at a glance? Take a look at our employee insight factsheets.
Health concerns are causing stress
Those who’ve continued going into their place of work had more health concerns and with good reason – they were twice as likely to report that they’d had coronavirus.
Almost a third (31%) shared that they were worried about their health as a result of work, with 28% saying they were feeling anxious and over one in five (21%) reporting that they feel lonely.
These concerns could be linked to difficulties social distancing whilst at work: 33% said it was difficult to follow and 22% shared that their employer could have handled it better.
The impact of these health worries led to a third reporting that their mental health has got worse and an additional 15% saying it’s got much worse.
When asked what was behind this decline in mental wellbeing, worrying about the health of others (33%) topped the list, followed by worrying about their own health (29%) and financial concerns (27%).
On top of the decline in mental health, almost a third (31%) say their physical health has got worse, including 8% who say it’s got much worse.
Not eating as healthily (44%) and a lack of exercise (42%) were the main reasons, however this could also be linked to their experience with coronavirus. This group were much more likely to report that they’d had Covid-19 (12%) compared to other respondents (7%).
A small silver lining
Though positives about current ways of working were much less common in this group compared to other respondents, there were some plus points people had experienced.
Those still going in feel a real sense of pride at still going into work (47%) with just under a quarter (24%) reporting that they’re learning new skills.
Some even saw improvements in their way of working with 30% saying they’ve been more productive and one in five reporting that work is easier to manage at the moment.
These small wins led to one in ten of those going in reporting that their mental health has actually improved over the past few months, pointing to more exercise (39%) and more free time (37%) as the main reasons why.
Alternative ways of working
Faced with the challenge of continuing to go to work whilst others are at home or furloughed, it’s not surprising that those who’ve continued going in are envious of others.
Almost one in four (38%) say they’d rather be working at home and a significant 11% say they’d prefer to be furloughed.
For those with kids at home, there’s a feeling of missing out: 19% of parents who’ve continued working feel like they’ve missed out on family time at home.
Job security concerns
Despite continuing to work throughout lockdown, this group are more likely to be worried about losing their job (47% vs. 43%) and think their employer should be doing more to ensure job security (31%).
This could be linked to levels of employer support: 22% say their employer could have handled it better and 15% say they don’t feel supported.
Experiencing new ways of working
Having missed out on trying new ways of working, those who’ve continued going in are keen to see them become a regular part of work life.
Over a quarter (26%) are expecting long-term changes to ways of working. Almost one in four (37%) say they expect more working from home, greater use of digital technology to collaborate (34%) and less travelling for work (31%).
It’s prompted people to think differently about what they want from work with over a quarter (26%) saying they’ll choose roles with more work-life balance, 16% focusing on roles closer to home to cut their commute and 15% looking at exploring other types of work.
Increased expectations of employers
On top of expectations around new ways of working, those who’ve continued going into work are also looking to their companies for additional support with their wellbeing.
Whilst 28% are looking for support with their mental health, 24% would like support with their physical health and 19% would like financial management education or support – the highest of any other group.
At risk of being overlooked
One of the biggest risks – and opportunities – is that this group start to feel overlooked as others return to the workplace.
Almost half (48%) are worried that they’ll be left behind after lockdown whilst others get special treatment.
To avoid alienating this dedicated group, consider ways you can incorporate their experience and knowledge gained over lockdown into reintegration plans, for example giving team updates on projects or at town hall meetings.