Wednesday 7 October 2020 11:34 am

Workplace stress reaches ‘record height’ during pandemic

2020 has been the most stressful year in history for the global workforce, according to a new report, as working from home and the threat of redundancy begin to take their toll on employees’ mental health.

A survey of more than 12,000 employees, managers, and top executives across 11 countries found that the pandemic has significantly hiked workplace stress, anxiety and burnout. 

Over two thirds of respondents said they were more stressed at work than ever before during the coronavirus crisis, according to the survey by US tech giant Oracle and HR firm Workplace Intelligence.

More than four-fifths of staff said stress at work was affecting their home life, with 40 per cent of people reporting sleep deprivation as a result of pandemic-related anxiety.  

Meanwhile, government orders to “work from home where possible” appear to have obliterated work-life balance, with a third of employees reporting that they worked 40 extra hours a month during the crisis.

“With new remote work expectations and blurred lines between personal and professional lives, the toll of Covid-19 on our mental health is significant — and it’s something that workers across every industry and country are dealing with,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner, Workplace Intelligence.

“The pandemic has put mental health front and centre,” he added. “It’s the biggest workforce issue of our time and will be for the next decade.”

Research showed stress about future job prospects, university placements and blame from the government exacerbated the generational divide caused by Covid, with 89 per cent of 22-25 year-olds saying the pandemic has affected their mental health, compared to 78 per cent globally.

But while working from home has caused significant drawbacks, two-thirds of employees surveyed said not having to commute and opportunities to spend more time with family have meant they find remote work more appealing than prior to the pandemic. 

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month U-turned on previous advice to “return to work where possible”, instead urging employees to work from home “for at least six months” to quell a spike in infections across the UK.

Major firms including Google, Natwest and Deutsche Bank have subsequently informed staff not to return to the office until at least 2021, while others look at making working from home a permanent option.

A survey of around 1,000 firms released last week by the Institute of Directors (IoD) showed that three-quarters plan on keeping current working from home policies beyond the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, more than half of businesses surveyed said they were mulling plans to reduce long-term leases of office space.

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