As organizations navigate how and when they should return to the office for work, evaluating what the employee experience will be is a key variable.
While some workers’ mental health has been negatively affected by increased isolation with remote work, others are feeling the anxiety of being in an office during the pandemic. A survey by Paychex found that 63% of the in-office employees it surveyed have experienced coronavirus-related stress.
Meanwhile, 35% of remote workers surveyed said they were affected by COVID-19 stress. According to the survey, having all onsite employees working remotely full time helped decrease the stress levels among a quarter of those surveyed.
Of the more than 1,000 employees surveyed, 51% said their mental health had worsened during the COVID-19 outbreak. More than half of these (56%) said they are working on site. Furthermore, motivation in the workplace has also seen a decline, as remote workers (51%) said they struggle to get motivated to work compared to those working on-site (45%).
Team morale has also been affected, with both onsite workers (47%) and remote workers (43%) feeling the strain. Strangely enough, work-life balance was not a major factor, with only 30% admitting to experiencing more stress in the post-COVID era. In this regard, those working onsite (33%) experienced slightly more stress than those who work remotely (28%).
The impact of stress on productivity among employees was almost the same. With 35% of onsite employees and 32% of remote workers admitting to a reduction in their productivity levels.
Talking About Mental Health Struggles
The survey found that just 27% of employees are either regularly seeing a therapist or attend counseling sessions. Surprisingly, more than half (55%) experiencing stress have not said anything to anyone because they feel uncomfortable in raising the subject.
Some 40% of employees said their employer does not provide adequate policies or procedures to address health and well-being during COVID-19. On-site employees were more likely to report inadequate mental health policies at work (43%), compared to remote workers (38%). Feeling that raising the subject was a deeply personal issue (59%) was the top reason presented. This is followed by not expecting the employer to help in alleviating the stress (33%). Others included the possibility of being either furloughed or fired (30%) or negatively affecting their career prospects (29%).
Interestingly, 18% feared raising the issue thinking their supervisors were too busy (18%). Moreover, others thought it would create judgement (10%) toward them in the workspace. Only 26% of managers and supervisors have actually checked on their employee’s mental health during the pandemic.
Those that have opened up to feeling stress did so to colleagues (35%) and supervisors (21%). While a few have confided to subordinates (6%) or HR (5%). Those that had opened up about feeling stressed felt more comfortable talking about their issues with their managers over the phones. Conversely, they felt the least comfortable opening up online chatting services such as Slack or Google chat.
Second Wave Stress
Concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 is also an issue, according to those surveyed. In fact, around 73% of respondents said they are ‘deeply troubled’ by the prospect of a second wave.
Those fearing losing their jobs in the event of a second wave is almost the same among all age groups. Millennials have a slightly higher concern (23%) compared to Generation X (22%) and Baby Boomers (19%).
Employees said they are preparing for this outcome by looking for a fallback job in the event of getting cut or furloughed (35%). Some 36% of employees and 33% of managers are actively looking for backup jobs just in case their current employment does not pan out. A further 30% are learning new skills to increase their chances of remaining employed. This applies to 31% of employees and 27% of managers who are developing additional job skills. Only 2% of both employees and managers are saving money in the event that they lose their current employment.