People working from home may be suffering ‘unmanageable stress’ because they have been putting in longer hours since the start of the pandemic.
This is according to health service provider Cigna Europe, which found 71% of UK workers are currently stressed, with 12% describing this stress as “unmanageable”.
A third (32%) of those working from home have been working longer hours since the onset of Covid-19. A lack of an office routine and extra time from the absence of a commute were the main reasons for employees working longer.
Mental health was seen as the most important aspect of “whole health” by UK workers, with 69% ranking it the highest when considering their wellbeing.
Dr Peter Mills, associate medical director at Cigna Europe, said employers needed to provide more “comprehensive” wellbeing policies to help those struggling to balance their workload and their mental health.
“It is essential for employers to focus on closing the gap between what employees expect in terms of their overall whole health and what they actually receive now that we are starting to return to the office,” he said.
“Whole health extends beyond the typical provisions of physical and mental health and includes everything that makes up the employee’s world: family, friends, work-life balance, access to care, finances and home environment. Difficulty in any one of these areas can have an immediate knock-on effect on a person’s whole health.”
The results were gleaned from Cigna’s 2021 360 Well-Being Survey, which involved 18,000 people across 21 countries. It received 1,002 responses from UK workers.
The research also found that:
- the UK ranked poorly compared with other European countries when it came to physical health, social, family, and work wellbeing
- the UK had the overall lowest wellbeing score among European nations, mainly driven by a significant drop in social and family wellbeing rankings
- despite the high importance of mental health, people in Europe were less inclined to turn to professional help compared to the global average (16% and 19% respectively)
- respondents from the UK (70%) were the most likely to consider both traditional and virtual healthcare to support their mental health
- forty-six per cent of UK workers preferred to work from home.
Elsewhere, employees at Nike’s head office in the United States have been given a week off to “destress” and recover from the pressures of the pandemic.
The staff in Oregon have been encouraged to ignore all work responsibilities until Friday 3 September to help their mental health.
“Take the time to unwind, destress and spend time with your loved ones. Do not work,” Nike senior manager of global marketing science, Matt Marrazzo, said in a message to staff.
“In a year (or two) unlike any other, taking time for rest and recovery is key to performing well and staying sane.”
UK employers were unlikely to consider doing something similar, suggested employment lawyer Suzanne Staunton of JMW Solicitors.
“It is worth remembering that in the US, employees have relatively short holiday entitlements, whereas, the UK’s holiday entitlement is relatively generous,” she said.
“With that in mind, it is unlikely that (many) UK employers will provide their staff with a week’s mental health break. However, anecdotally, over the past 12 months, we saw a number of employers have given staff a day or two additional mental health days or an extra day holiday. Those employers who implemented such schemes reported an increase in morale and productivity.
“Notwithstanding this specific mental health leave, all employees are entitled to take sick leave where they are feeling unwell due to mental health.”
Bumble and LinkedIn offered their staff a week off for mental health reasons earlier this year.