Mental health issues rise among UK employees as 'survival mode' becomes new normal

Kalila Sangster
·3 min read
Eye Strain. Overworked Black Businesswoman Massaging Nosebridge At Workplace Having Eyesight Problem, Selective Focus
One in three workers are neglecting their own mental health because they are too busy with work, according to new research. Photo: Getty

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on both the mental and physical health of the UK workforce, as well as Brits’ financial futures, according to a study from Aviva.

The pandemic forced many businesses to shift to remote working which has created a “blurred line” between work and home life for many employees, the research found.

Half (49%) of the UK workforce is now working from home and whilst 53% prefer it over going into the office, one in three are neglecting their own mental health because they are too busy with work.

Over half (52%) of employees said the boundaries between work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred. One in five (19%) are also troubled by work interfering with their home and personal life.

Two-thirds (65%) of workers cited modern technology as a factor that is affecting their work-life balance as it exacerbates the feeling of being “always on.”

Working in “survival mode” has become the “new normal,” according to the research, as employees work longer hours and take fewer sick days.

“Presenteeism” has also become more noticeable, even when working from home, the research found.

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Presenteeism is where an employee comes into work when they are unwell, thereby having a negative impact on business productivity, quality of work, and quantity of output.

Without rest and leave, workers may take longer to recover from illness, resulting in longer periods of ill health.

The number of UK workers taking no sick days at all increased to 84% between February and August 2020 — an increase of 17%. Almost two-thirds (63%) of employees were working unpaid overtime at least once a week, with 13% working unpaid overtime daily.

Only around a quarter (27%) said they really enjoyed their work in August 2020, compared to 34% in February. In August, 43% of employees ranked their mental health between “very bad” and “fair,” compared with 38% in February.

Nearly half (44%) of employees said that they didn’t like working from home as they felt disconnected from their colleagues.

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The coronavirus pandemic is also affecting workers’ sense of purpose, with less than half (42%) believing their goals and objectives are clear and just 15% reporting their employer is trying really hard to understand what motivates them.

This has led to fewer people feeling loyal to their employer — 33% in August compared to 38% in February. Three-quarters (74%) also feel that they are more likely to move jobs more frequently throughout their career.

While more than half (54%) feel their employer has worked hard to create a sense of “company togetherness” for staff working remotely, just a quarter (26%) think that their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing.

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