Mental Wellbeing at Work: Sectors Most Impacted by the Pandemic

Mental wellbeing
  • Accountancy sector is most impacted, with one in three employees (33%) reporting a negative impact on their wellbeing
  • 27% of those in the financial services sector say their wellbeing had been impacted during the pandemic
  • However, 36% of those surveyed agreed that their employer is now more understanding about mental health
  • As restrictions ease and employees prepare to return to the office, Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing, shares 4 wellbeing priorities for your business

It’s impossible to overstate the impact that COVID-19 has had on businesses over the last year. Organisations in all industries have had to adapt and evolve to survive in the face of the crisis, all while working against a backdrop of major economic uncertainty.

As businesses begin their COVID recovery plan, new research from Bupa UK’s Wellbeing Census has shown the true impact of the pandemic across each sector. Bupa’s new research shows that the wellbeing of employees working in the accounting sector has been most affected, with one in three (33%) employees saying their wellbeing had been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Elsewhere, the wellbeing of employees working in media, marketing, and PR (32%) and education (31%) were negatively impacted by the pandemic, too. Retail (28%), construction (26%) and manufacturing (25%) all saw an impact on employee mental health.

Surprisingly, those working in industries hit hardest by the pandemic, such as hospitality and leisure, fared slightly better, with 1 in 5 employees (20%) reporting a negative impact on their mental health.

This may be because of reduced working hours or furlough schemes, which have been prominent in the industry. In contrast, businesses that have continued to operate over the last year have juggled adjusting to new ways of working, changes to remits, and possible longer working hours.

There are significant demographic differences, with women more likely to report a negative impact than men. Two-thirds (66%) of female employees say the impact has been negative, compared to 57% of men; however, 6% of both men and women reported an extremely negative impact on their overall wellbeing.

As we look ahead to restrictions lifting across the UK, businesses must now prioritise a COVID recovery plan and focus on how to prioritise employee wellbeing.

However, there has been a number of subsequent ‘wellbeing gains’ from working through the pandemic. Our new research has shown an increase in wellbeing awareness across businesses, with 36% of those surveyed agreeing that their employer is now more understanding about mental health. The impact of workload on mental health has dropped from 36% to 27%, too.

Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa, shares four wellbeing priorities for every business:

“Wellbeing in the workplace means different things to different people, so it’s important to offer a diverse mix of wellbeing strategies. It’s vital to keep up the momentum, with so many businesses focusing on wellbeing support during the pandemic.

By seizing the wellbeing opportunity presented by the pandemic, there are numerous benefits to be found, too. From a greater focus on mental health recovery to encouraging diversity at work, here are four wellbeing priorities for every business”.


1. Accessibility is key

We’ve seen a marked increase in the number of health and wellbeing services offered by businesses over the last year. Employees surveyed for our latest research said that their employer has introduced some form of initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and many hope that these changes will become permanent.

Ensuring your employees have access to both physical and mental health support can increase productivity, reduce absence in the workplace and improve morale.


2. Prioritise mental health recovery

Mental health has been hit hard due to the pandemic, both at home and work. Research has revealed that pressure was the most common cause of work-related stress last year, with many of the UK workforce experiencing mental health conditions such as boreout and burnout.

Promisingly, our research shows that 78% of UK employees say they have experienced  good mental wellbeing at work during the pandemic – this is even slightly up on pre-pandemic levels.

It’s important we keep this momentum in the workplace and focus on mental health support, both for treatment and recovery. For example, ensuring you have regular catchups with your direct reports can make a huge difference.


3. Provide access to wellbeing services

46% of the UK workforce believe wellbeing support services offered by their employer have improved over the past 12 months – a key wellbeing gain of 2020.

However, whilst we have seen an improvement in wellbeing services available, businesses shouldn’t stop there. Over the next few months businesses should look to follow a health-first approach to people management, ensuring employees have access to both mental and physical health support services. As a result, businesses will see greater productivity, reduce turn over and absences – all which account for a successful business environment.


4. Encourage diversity at work

Whilst steps are being made to improve workplace diversity and inclusion across many businesses, we must strive to put diversity at the top of the agenda. Our research showed that 14% of UK employees would like to see more policies ensuring workplace diversity and inclusion over the next year.

As we look towards the future business leaders need to look towards how they can embrace diversity and inclusion within their organisations. From educating managers in diversity and inclusion matters, hiring leaders who understand the importance of these values and helping employees to feel comfortable to express themselves and their values -these are all achievable steps that can be taken to promote workplace culture, diversity, and inclusion.

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