Posted By Westfield Health

Posted on25th June 2020

Even before the outbreak, there was a growing mental health crisis in the UK with one in four adults experiencing mental illness each year at a total cost to the economy of over £105 billion annually according to the Department of Health.

Mental ill health affects every part of your life, including work. Those struggling with their mental health often come into work without really being present, resulting in reduced productivity and costing UK businesses an average of £1300 per employee – twice the cost of sickness absence.

With half of UK workers say their mental health has got a bit or a lot worse since lockdown according to our latest research, this is set to be a real challenge for businesses as teams head back to the workplace and businesses look to boost productivity to aid recovery.

Our Divided Together report asked 1500 people how lockdown has impacted their mental health, the reasons why and how they were feeling about going back to work.

Want all the facts at a glance? Take a look at our employee insight factsheets.

Lockdown has taken its toll

For the majority of people (50%), the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown has caused their mental health to get worse.

Of the 50% who say their mental health has got worse, 13% reported that it’s got a lot worse with those who’ve been furloughed (56%) and parents (55%) being especially hard hit.

When asked about what might be behind this decline, missing their usual routine (45%) was the most common response, followed by fears about losing their job (43%) and financial concerns (40%) – all of which were higher than fears about the virus itself (37%).

Interestingly, though all respondents were positive about their employer’s handling of the crisis, those who’ve been furloughed were the least likely to say they felt supported by their company (65%) and were the most likely to say they wanted more reassurance from their employer (40%).

A minority experience improvements

Though many people have been struggling with their mental health as a result of Covid-19, over one in ten (11%) say their mental health has actually improved.

Those who’ve been working from home (12%) and those with kids (12%) were most likely to report an improvement, with having more free time (51%) listed as the main reason for the improvement.

Other reasons for the boost included more exercise (48%), feeling less stressed (44%) and spending more time with family (44%).

Both those who noticed a decline and those who reported an improvement in their mental health named the amount of exercise they’re getting as a key factor.

For those whose mental health had improved during lockdown, 48% put that down to more exercise, making it the second most common reason behind having more free time (51%).

Amongst those who’ve experienced worsening mental health, less exercise was a top ten reason with 31% saying it was a contributing factor.

Return to work anxiety

Across all respondents, many were looking forward to getting back to normal (71%) and seeing colleagues again (40%), but the prospect of another routine change combined with health concerns has proved to be a recipe for anxiety.

Health concerns dominated anxieties about going back to the workplace with 64% believing it isn’t safe to return and 57% saying they’re worried about their personal safety, it’s not surprising that the majority (51%) are anxious about returning to their usual working routine.

A lack of clarity around what the new workplace might look like could be behind this; 53% say they’re not sure how they’ll be able to do their job and social distance.

By sharing return to work plans and even a video tour of the safety measures that have been put in place as suggested by one of our LinkedIn Live participants, there’s an opportunity for employers to reduce anxieties and minimise further impact on mental health.

Providing support

Our research showed that expectations of employers have fundamentally changed as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, particularly when it comes to wellbeing.

With so many workers saying they’ve been struggling with their mental health, 29% say they’d like additional mental health support from their employer.

Those most likely to be looking to their company for extra help are people who’ve been working from home (32%) and parents (32%).

For more insight about how teams have been affected by coronavirus, take a look at the Divided Together report or download our employee insight factsheets.

No health without mental health: A crossGovernment mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages

Mental health problems at work cost UK economy £34.9bn last year, says centre for mental health

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