We have today launched a report to understand the impact of COVID on employees across the UK workforce. We surveyed 2,000 of those who have been working from home during the pandemic to explore how they are feeling.

We found that almost half of the UK’s workforce is not ready to return to work, with many being anxious or deeply concerned. Our survey revealed that 45% described their feelings about the return to work negatively. Deepening the crisis, only 5% of employers have put in extra employee support services for those returning to a more normal work pattern.

Challenges facing businesses are compounded by the fact that not all staff are comfortable raising health concerns with their line managers. Almost one-third (30%) confirmed they would not feel comfortable discussing any mental health, physical health, grief or financial concerns with their line manager.

When looking at concerns where workers are comfortable disclosing with their line managers, the reading is equally alarming. Only 41% said they would discuss mental health concerns with their manager, while even fewer would discuss physical health issues (36%), financial concerns (28%) and grief experiences (22%).

Shelley Rowley, Chief Transformation Officer at BHSF, shares her thoughts on the findings:

“The working world has changed considerably over the last 18 months, and while flexible working policies and home offices are becoming more normalised, the mental health crisis appears to be growing. It goes without saying that each individual is different and employers have a difficult task in creating an inclusive environment for all staff to feel confident to openly discuss their struggles.

However, it is a legal requirement for employers to look after the health and safety of their staff, and this includes mental health. The results show that not all staff are confident in opening up to their line managers, which begs the question, who are they turning to? It is difficult for employers, as home-working makes it more difficult to spot the signs. Creating an inclusive environment, where multiple avenues of support are made available, is the most effective way to support staff.

It is clear from our survey that more needs to be done to support staff. We hope our report can offer some guidance on practical steps businesses can take, without adding pressure on line managers and leadership teams who may also be struggling.”

Four ways to create an environment inclusive of wellbeing:

  1. Lead from the top

If senior managers can be open about their own experience and vulnerability during the pandemic, it will send out a strong message to their workers that the company recognises this is a widespread issue and will be supportive.

  1. Consult with employees

Talk to employees before announcing return-to-work plans. Some people may have been working from home for nearly a year and feel anxious about returning to the workplace, including their travel to work.

  1. Adopt enhanced consultation

Opening up a dialogue with your employees will enable you to take a proactive approach to identified concerns rather than a reactive approach to problems at a later date. Feeling fully informed can be very reassuring to employees who are not quite sure what to expect of their post-pandemic workplace.

  1. Establish a strong support mechanism

We shouldn’t assume that providing colleagues with the compassion required is something that comes naturally to all line managers. Establishing a strong support mechanism is key so that they can coordinate action early and turn to those with HR and clinical expertise

For further insight, download the full report which is available here or talk to us about how we can enhance your workplace wellbeing.