22nd March 2021 by Charlotte Walker
Assessing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s workforce one year on, research has found that as many as 61% of managers have suffered from burnout at work since the UK was first placed into lockdown, with a fifth (20%) of all managers either considering, or actually quitting their job as a result of the strain on their mental wellbeing.
With the Office for National Statistics reporting that the number of individuals experiencing symptoms of depression has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic, Benenden Health has examined the impact on the nation’s workforce. This has revealed the effect of COVID-19 on the working lives of managers and their subsequent experiences of burnout, which is the occurrence of exhaustion, stress, cynicism and/or feelings of reduced professional ability due to demands at work.
The main causes of burnout at work in the past year were shown to be anxiety about the future (46%), a lack of sleep (40%), limited social interaction (35%), increased demands from senior leadership (28%) and managing home schooling with work (26%), whilst a third (34%) of burnout sufferers revealed that working longer hours had contributed.
Despite more than half of managers (55%) wanting to take time off work due to burnout brought on by the pressures of the pandemic, only a fifth have done so (21%), with others revealing they couldn’t due to their workload being too high (36%), their team needing them (33%), fearing an absence would impact their career progression (32%) and that senior management wouldn’t let them do so (16%).
The survey of UK-based managers also revealed that only a fifth (20%) of those who have experienced burnout in the past year have sought medical support, whilst a third (33%) either took time off as annual leave or a physical health sick day to hide the real reason for their absence.
With the coronavirus pandemic placing such a serious strain on the nation’s workforce, UK businesses are now facing a mental wellbeing crisis as individuals suffer in silence, having a knock-on effect on the culture, retention, productivity and overall performance of organisations.
One in seven managers (15%) have reported lower productivity levels at work since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst 11% said their work was of a lower quality. Conversely, only 9% said their productivity has risen and 8% believe their work has improved in the past year.
On a personal level, a third of managers reported that work has caused increased anxiety in the past year (33%), four in ten said it has caused mood swings (27%), a quarter revealed their diet has got worse (26%), one in five (18%) have consumed more alcohol and a tenth (10%) said their relationship with their partner has deteriorated.
As the nation begins to slowly roll back COVID-19 restrictions, one in six managers (17%) revealed that they are worried about being encouraged to work from an office before they are comfortable doing so, whilst 16% believe that the easing of restrictions will put more pressure on them at work. With one in eight (12%) saying that they fear the culture within their business will get worse once restrictions ease, businesses may also need to consider how they maintain a feeling of togetherness as life returns to something more like normality.
The future of traditional office working was also revealed to be in jeopardy as more than two thirds (69%) of managers said they would like to work from home – at least part-time – on a permanent basis.
Naomi Thompson, Head of OD at Benenden Health, said: “It goes without saying that the past year has been incredibly challenging for individuals across the nation, both in our personal lives and at work.
“Businesses too have suffered immensely from the COVID-19 pandemic and these pressures have filtered down to management, who have been vital in keeping operations going at work whilst managing their own lives at home.
“What we are seeing is that there is a burnout epidemic across the nation’s managers, but too often these individuals feel too helpless, worried and embarrassed to open up and seek support for their mental wellbeing concerns.
“An open, two-way conversation must now take place to ensure employees are able to disclose and address any mental wellbeing concerns without fear. It is also important that employers are in a position to support appropriately and effectively, to the benefit of both individual employees, and the business as a whole. In building a happy, healthy and productive workforce, employers will also have to consider how their operations change as restrictions ease, ensuring that employee wellbeing is at the forefront of these conversations.”
Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as mental health helplines, 24/7 GP plus access to services such as mental health counselling support and medical treatment so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it.
For more information about Benenden Health and to download its report ‘The elephant that never left the office: Why stigma is still preventing employees from telling their boss the truth about their mental wellbeing in the workplace’, visit https://www.benenden.co.uk/mwr2020.