Quarter of employees say their mental health has deteriorated during pandemic

08 Mar 2021
Stressed out employee working from home

Most office staff in the UK are still working remotely, but out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind when it comes to looking after your employees' health.

In fact, it's more important than ever before to make sure your employees have access to the support they need when they face physical or mental health challenges.

Instances of work-related stress, depression and anxiety were already rising, and increased further over the past year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In 2019/20 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health. There were 828,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety and the total number of working days lost due to this condition was 17.9 million, equating to an average of 21.6 days lost per case.

In a recent survey, one in five (20%) employees in UK businesses said they were struggling to cope with Covid-19 restrictions and a quarter (26%) said that their mental health has deteriorated due to the pandemic.

The research was conducted by Opinium for Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group risk protection sector.

Three quarters (76%) of the 1,126 employees surveyed in January 2021 said that, to the best of their knowledge, they had not had Covid-19, but 13% said they had contracted the virus and 11% were 'not sure'. Of those who have had the virus, nearly half (46%), said they were struggling to recover.

This highlights the importance of ensuring swift access to health and wellbeing benefits to minimise the impact on the individual, GRiD said.

What's more, the mental repercussions of both the restrictions and the virus itself not only impact the individual but can also have consequences for others, from their partner, to their children and other dependants; and within a business context, immediate colleagues, their wider team and the business as a whole.

Responding to the changes brought about by the pandemic, group risk providers have been fast-tracking access to support for employees and creating entirely new programmes to provide help.

For example, mental health support in relation to Covid-19 has been accelerated, remote/online consultations are more widely available, and early interventions for Long Covid have been developed that address both the fatigue and neurological side of the condition. There is also greater rehabilitation support to aid employees returning to work.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: "Group risk products -- employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness -- are continually developing and over recent years we've seen a marked increase in the capacity and diversity of embedded support. However, it's true to say that as in other areas of our lives, the pandemic has hastened developments. Therefore as well as providing comprehensive financial help for employees when it's most needed, the breadth and depth of support within group risk products for mental health issues in general and those arising from the pandemic is now extensive."