The nation express anxiety over return to work

Mental fitness platform 87% has noted rising anxiety across its users about the prospect of lockdown restrictions easing.

  • A third of users are nervous about socialising and half believe fewer restrictions will make their work life harder.

  • Caroline Outterside, psychological therapist, urges employers to note the conflict of this data with the belief that wellbeing will improve after lockdown.

The last 12 months have brought with them incredible changes to people’s lives in all domains. Routines have been badly affected and people have suffered significant loss; of connections, of support, of important life experiences.

Mental wellbeing scores have not recovered since first lockdown

As lockdown was announced in the UK in March 2020, wellbeing scores of users of mental fitness platform 87% plummeted (indicating declining mental health), as workers worried about the instability that restrictions would bring. Metrics such as anxiety, fatigue and work stress were particularly badly affected and scores have not recovered to previous levels.

A year on, and with the end of a third and long winter lockdown in sight, there is more change to come as we transition back to a life as close to normal as it can be in the wake of Covid-19. This is reflected in apprehension amongst workers following continued research by 87% into their mental wellbeing.

87%, which encourages its users to focus on their wellbeing every day to build mental fitness over time, has surveyed its thousands of users, particularly noting increased anxiety about being in social situations again and significant concerns that work life will get harder once restrictions are lifted.

A third of workers are nervous about socialising and half think their work life will get harder

A third (31%) of users indicated that they are feeling nervous about socialising, both for fear of doing so too soon and causing further spread of Coronavirus, and because of doubts about mixing comfortably in a group again. Men reported feeling more excited than women, and the group who reported feeling most worried were aged 26-35. Workers are also concerned about how the easing of restrictions will impact their work life. Almost half of people (47%) believe their work life will get harder in the coming months, despite having to cope with the isolation of lockdown and changed work patterns in the last year. Women are more likely to believe their working life would be harder, by approx. 9%.

Importantly, despite this potential negative impact on work-life, still there was the expectation that wellbeing in general would improve.

Furthermore, despite the Government’s roadmap to cautiously ease lockdown, the majority of people (41%) are refusing to make plans for any social events because of the uncertainty that remains, whilst only 16% and 18% are planning activities six months and one month ahead respectively. Few people are arranging to see friends and family or embark on activities they have missed in the last year.

The views of a psychological therapist on people’s ability to cope with changes

Caroline Outterside, a psychological therapist, notes some of the reasons for these concerns and the ramifications: “The change curve theory suggests we experience a gradual transition process of adjusting to the loss we feel, through a range of emotions that include denial, frustration, confusion, even depression, until we get to a position of acceptance and emotional stability again. This process takes around six-to-nine months, and people will often be on different time cycles depending on losses suffered.

“People have gone through a number of very complex changes over the course of the last year, which may complicate and even elongate the timeframe for getting to the recovery and acceptance phase. Not everyone will reach the final stage at the same time and some will even slip backwards if support is not suited to them. Employers must therefore note that the anxiety shown in the data conflicts with the general belief that wellbeing will improve after lockdown, and provide the right support to staff to help them deal with the impact of yet more change.”

87% uses sophisticated technology to make wellbeing tangible, ensuring that businesses and individuals are able to identify emotional and behavioural trends and prevent mental health issues from occurring. With the right data and insights in place, organisations can help their people to understand and deal with change and loss and, through this, build mental fitness to manage new challenges and new social pressures.

Employers must support their staff through ongoing changes

For organisations that wish to do more to help their staff through the process of returning to work, Caroline Outterside, psychological therapist, has the following advice:

Be sympathetic to the individual:

Understand that the transition process is personal and people’s ability to respond to change is different and unique. Individually, people should be encouraged to trust in their own abilities and adaptability. This will help staff build trust in the competence, credibility and motives of the employer.

Create an open environment:

Individuals must feel like they are working in an environment that encourages open communication and empathetic listening. Doors and ears should always be open and this includes providing opportunities for staff to give feedback, which will in turn encourage people to come forward to share their feelings and ask for help.

Outline short-term goals:

Press Release A sense of direction from the top is essential for those feeling a little lost and any initiatives that can boost morale to encourage people to pull together will help. Shorter term goals that allow staff to experience some quick wins will be very powerful in helping improve motivation.

Find success in the change:

Guide staff through the change process by helping them identify areas that are different, yet better. This will promote resilience amongst staff and encourage patience in this process, in turn improving overall confidence.

About 87%:

Based on the principle that only 13% of adults report living with high levels of good mental health, 87% is a mental fitness platform whose vision is to improve employee mental wellbeing and indirectly benefit that of society in general through increased engagement and productivity. Its methodology is built on years of scientific research and uses an algorithm to evaluate thousands of data points that include behavioural activity and environmental data. From here, mental wellbeing is broken into seven distinct dimensions that reflect everyday life and a customisable app offers proven techniques to ensure users build resilience and self-awareness to get the best results.

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