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The effects of COVID-19 on workforce wellbeing

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has impacted both our physical and mental health. In this article, we examine the effects and how you can put yourself in a better position to assist your employees.

Psychological impact of lockdown

Loneliness, stress and hopelessness

According to the Mental Health Foundation:1

  • Loneliness has risen from 10% to 26% between March 2020 and February 2021.
  • Fewer UK adults are coping well with the stress of the pandemic. 64% (Feb 21) compared to 73% (April 2020).
  • Nearly one in five (18%) of the UK adult population reported feeling hopeless in February 2021.

Social isolation, reduced access to mental health services, and loss of coping mechanisms are a few of many factors that have contributed to the negative impacts of the pandemic on mental health.2

Employers need to ensure that employees have access to mental health support to help them to cope with increased isolation.

Physical impacts of COVID-19 and lockdown

Working from home

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) recently reported that of the people who switched to working from home as a result of Covid-19, nearly half (48%) of people who work from a sofa or bedroom said they had developed musculoskeletal problems.3 With over one in four (26%) working from home from either a sofa or a bedroom.3 The physical impact associated with so many working from make shift work stations is being felt. It's critical that employees have access to equipment and a remote assessment to support them with their physical health.

Disruption to sport and physical fitness

There’s no questioning the benefits sports and fitness provides on both mental and physical health. But the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has brought disruption to sport and physical fitness for so many. UCL reported that two fifths (40%) of people were exercising less in the January lockdown than in the first.4 Although sports clubs, gyms and leisure centres are now open, finding the motivation to get “back on the horse” could be difficult. Employers might want to consider encouraging programmes such as Couch to 5k to help employees transition back into physical activities.

Long COVID

The COVID-19 virus affects each individual in different ways. For some, it can be life-threatening. Others meanwhile can have no symptoms at all. But those who have experienced symptoms, can feel the effects for weeks or even months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or "long COVID".5 There are many different symptoms of long COVID including:5

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia).

These can change as the illness progresses. For a full list of symptoms, visit the NHS website.

It’s clear the resilience of the UK has, and is still, being tested, both mentally and physically. What can you do to support your employees who may be struggling?

Supporting workforce physical and mental wellbeing

Helping employees with long COVID

The fluctuating nature of the condition can really set your employees back. As an employer, there’s some key things you can do to support an employee with long COVID. That’s why our sister company, Mercer UK, teamed up with Bupa in their recent article: Supporting employees with long COVID.

Home workstation guidelines

When working from home employees may not afford the same benefits such as ergonomic workstations they’re used to when working at the company premises. It’s therefore important employers provide guidance on how to set up workstations at home. And will need to be adapted to suit each individual home working environment.

Employees may already have a home office, but if this turns into a more permanent solution, this may need to be adjusted to get the best from it and to avoid potential health problems. Download our Display Screen Equipment Guide for more information.

Supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

There are plenty of practical ways you can help improve your employees’ mental health by encouraging healthier habits, such as;6

  • talking openly and encouraging employees who are struggling to access support networks such as Employee Assistant Programmes,
    fitness,
  • eating and drinking better,
  • connecting with others,
  • promoting improved sleep.

But it’s not always clear to employers how to implement a health and wellbeing strategy. Our Health and Safety hub has some helpful templates to get you started, including:

  • Stress and wellbeing policy template.
  • Wellness action template.

The Mental Health Foundation also has some fantastic tips on their website.

Backing you to succeed with refreshingly human advice and support

We hope you found the information in this article helpful. As part of our continued commitment to support wellbeing, if you would like to learn more about any of the topics discussed, or are looking for support around risk management or employee health and benefits, please get in touch or speak to your Marsh Commercial advisor.

 

Sources: 

1. mentalhealth.org.uk/news/pandemic-one-year-landmark-mental-health-study-reveals-mixed-picture

2. health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/emerging-evidence-on-covid-19s-impact-on-mental-health-and-health

3. rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/survey-reveals-the-mental-and-physical-health-impacts-of-home-working-during-covid-9.html#:~:text=However%2C%20people%20who%20switched%20to,and%20disturbed%20sleep%20(37%25)

4. ucl.ac.uk/news/2021/jan/people-exercising-less-and-watching-more-tv-first-lockdown#:~:text=Two%20fifths%20(40%25)%20of,the%20Covid%2D19%20Social%20Study.

5. nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/long-term-effects-of-coronavirus-long-covid/

6. mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-support-mental-health-work

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