Workplace wellbeing: 5 insights from UK employees

Published on 17/02/2021 by Sonia Navarrete

Businesses of all sizes had to quickly adapt to remote working in 2020 when COVID-19 forced the closure of many workplaces. Solutions aimed at ‘patching up’ these first months were implemented: collaboration tools, HR software, and other tools that would help to make the transition to remote work as smooth as possible for employees and keep the workplace wellbeing for them.

With almost a year gone by since the first lockdown, we surveyed 1,000 UK workers about workplace wellbeing, burnout, and their attitudes to working from home. 

The most significant insights include:

  • Only 17% of new home-workers want to return to the worksite full-time once the pandemic is over.
  • 29% find it difficult to manage work and home life simultaneously.
  • Almost 3 in 4 workers (71%) say they are experiencing some degree of burnout—from mild to extreme.
  • 45% of UK employees who began working from home during the pandemic have not discussed their mental wellbeing with their boss.

Capterra UK workplace wellbeing infographic

#1 – Working from home has its benefits for employees—but it’s not perfect

40% of respondents began home working due to COVID-19, while 7% worked from home already. The rest continued to work at their employer’s workplace. Remote workers seem broadly happy with working from home. In total, 83% would be happy to continue doing to some degree once the pandemic ends. The most popular split was 75/25 in favour of home working (preferred by 28% of respondents), followed by an even 50/50 split (25%). 16% wanted to work only from home, while a similar 17% wanted to return to the workplace full time.

However, the workplace has clear benefits. Overall, respondents rated it better for job satisfaction, workplace setup, collaboration, connection to the company culture, relationship with managers, and visibility of work. In fact, home-working only came out on top when it came to work-life balance and perks.

Working from home can take away many of the distractions of the workplace, but productivity issues can also arise. 33% say they are more productive at home, but 37% say they are not. For both sets of respondents, the main reason given for lack of productivity at either the workplace or home was “distractions.”

Key takeaway: Work-life balance is important. The increased autonomy over our working day that home-working could help some employees with productivity, career progression, and company culture.

#2 – Work is bleeding into our home lives

Now that the home is the workplace for so many people, the separation between the two is shrinking quickly. We asked people who had begun home-working in 2020 what work tasks they were doing outside of traditional hours.

  • 56% answer work emails on the weekend sometimes or often, up from 41% before the pandemic.
  • 59% answer work calls out of hours sometimes or often, up from 49%.
  • More than half (52%) work on the weekends, up from 45%.

35% often use personal devices for work (and a further 34% say they do so sometimes). And 64% sometimes or often reply instantly to work messages.

Key takeaway: While these numbers are not a major increase on what workers reported when they were still working from their office, they do show a pattern. Respondents find it difficult to separate work and home life, and this is contributing to stress.

#3 – 62% of UK employees say that their stress levels have either remained the same or increased

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives. In addition to this external stress, there may be new pressures at work because of increased workload, shrinking teams, or tough economic conditions.

Since transitioning to working from home, 62% of UK employees surveyed say that their stress levels have either remained the same or increased. 54% of respondents say the main cause of more stress was the lack of separation between work and home life. In addition, over a third (31%) say they feel under pressure from their workload.

Level of stress by employees in the UK

Despite the high prevalence of stress-causing problems, 45% of UK employees who began working from home in 2020 have not discussed their mental wellbeing with their boss since the COVID-19 crisis began.

Key takeaway: Since employees are no longer in the same location as their bosses, it can be difficult for employers to recognise stress and act in the employee’s best interests before major problems arise. Many organisations are taking a proactive approach, but our survey reveals that just under half have not broached the issue.

#4 – Burnout is common

According to the World Health Organisation, burnout combines feelings of exhaustion, a lack of engagement with work, and reduced professional efficacy.

71% of people who began home-working in 2020 say they are experiencing some degree of burnout, from mild to extreme. To explore this further, we asked whether respondents had experienced any of eight symptoms of burnout, including headaches, difficulty sleeping, feelings of isolation, and sadness. 75% said they had experienced one or more of these.

Employees experiencing burnout

The most common were sleeping problems (35%), feelings of isolation (32%) and difficulty concentrating (31%).

Key takeaway: Burnout is currently under exploration by the World Health Organisation. It appears to be gaining traction as a recognised issue in workplace wellbeing, and the pressure of the pandemic may be exacerbating it.

#5 – It’s not one-size-fits-all

While the above trends paint a general picture for UK workers, the survey shows some interesting variations between demographic groups.

For instance, young people—who may be working in shared houses with limited working space and privacy—were less favourable to home-working. In fact, only 4% of them wanted to continue working from home full-time after the pandemic versus 16% of respondents from all age groups combined.

Being shut out from the workplace affects workers of different ages differently. Young people were more likely to feel stress from work since the pandemic started, to report burnout, and to talk to their manager about their mental wellbeing than older people. This trend occurs fairly evenly across age groups:

At the same time, young people are also much more likely to have learned new skills. 72% of 56–65-year-olds said they have not had to upskill during the pandemic compared to 34% of 18–25-year-olds.

Key takeaway: Employees have different needs. Employers should be aware of how the pandemic affects certain groups and be proactive in addressing those needs. And don’t be afraid to reach out to see how you can help.
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Survey methodology

The Capterra HR in the New Era Survey 2021 was conducted in January 2021.

In the UK 1,050 employees aged 18–65 responded to our survey—26% of whom work part-time. 70% worked in an office environment prior to the pandemic, and none were self-employed.

We surveyed workers at small businesses with 2-500 employees in the following countries:

  • Germany (1,098 responses)
  • United Kingdom (1,050 responses)
  • Canada (1,012 responses)
  • France (1,001 responses)
  • Italy (1,000 responses)
  • Spain (999 responses)
  • Brazil (994 responses)
  • United States (922 responses)
  • Netherlands (883 responses)

The responses are a representative sample (by age and gender) of each country’s population. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Senior Content Analyst at Capterra, helping SMEs choose the best software. Published in Raconteur, Computer Weekly and IT Pro. Journalist and PR. Nature, bike and dog lover.

Senior Content Analyst at Capterra, helping SMEs choose the best software. Published in Raconteur, Computer Weekly and IT Pro. Journalist and PR. Nature, bike and dog lover.


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