Almost two thirds of workers across the UK and Europe feel their work-related stress levels have increased compared with pre-pandemic levels, with 81 per cent of this group describing themselves as having a poor or low state of mind at the time of being surveyed.
In a pan-European study conducted for Axa Health, 27 per cent of UK workers aged 25-34 said their mental health had deteriorated during the pandemic, compared with 17 per cent of those aged 55-plus.
Working people have missed having personal encounters, with the survey finding 82 per cent of British workers have missed physical contact with people outside of their direct household – the second highest percentage in the sample, after Spain, where 85 per cent said they missed contact. The research found 78 per cent of French and Italian workers and 75 per cent of Belgians missed face-to-face working environments, compared to 73 per cent of Swiss workers and 65 per cent of Germans.
When it comes to their ability to work from home, UK workers were less likely to say they ‘have to leave their house’ to perform their job properly. Thirty-five percent said they could perform their job at home compared with an average of 31 per cent for their Continental counterparts.
Axa Health head of wellbeing Dr Chris Tomkins says: “As the pandemic continues into winter, it’s imperative that working people not only stay safe but also remember to look after their all-round health – and that employers and their health partners support this.
“For those who’ve switched to working from home there are new challenges. Your work now spills into your living room, kitchen and your family environment. So, it’s important to put clear physical and psychological boundaries in place to ensure you’re not slipping into being ‘always on’ for work. Management should lead by example by sharing what works for them. Try to be disciplined with regular breaks and ‘time-outs’ in your day, as these can be invaluable in helping you pause, re-energise and refocus.
“Also, if relevant, managers should consider redirecting savings from reduced travel and office costs into staff wellbeing and engagement – you’ll need this with a more dispersed workforce.
“Employers and employees alike should remember not to view mental health in isolation. Rather, for a healthy life, we need a balance between our physical, mental and social wellbeing. COVID-19 has created a challenge to everyone’s mental health and exposed vulnerabilities from physical health risks. Therefore, by understanding individuals’ health and wellbeing as a whole, we can be proactive and take effective measures to safeguard their wellbeing – now, and in the future.”
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