MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

UK Workers Hesitant To Go Back To Workplace Full-time

Workers in the UK unsure about returning full-time to their workplace after COVID-19 lockdowns.
Inclusion for disabled people. Group of young multiracial business people with one handicapped man in wheelchair, discussing ideas in front of glass wall using post it notes and stickers

UK full-time workers feel anxious and hesitant to transition back to a physical workplace, according to research by data consultancy, Vitreous.

More than half (57%) of respondents feel anxious about returning to the workplace, while just over 25% felt pressure from their employer to return. The poll surveyed over 1,600 adult workers in the UK who are currently in a full-time job with regular income. Vitreous worked with programmatic research technology company Lucid to create the research.

The findings show that business leaders need to offer more empathy to their employees during times of uncertainty. According to the research, 69% of employees said they felt their employers could have done more to ease the transition with another 65% feeling that workplaces today are still not welcoming, inclusive or positive spaces for everyone.

Workplaces Unsupportive To Disabled Employees

Respondents with a physical disability or a mental health condition think their workplace is not doing enough to support them. In the UK, disabled people make up 20% of the population aged 16 to 64. This means that a fifth of the UK workforce might not be having their needs met by their employers.

“The findings from this research are a stark reminder to businesses of all sizes across the country that, despite feeling as if we are returning to business as usual, the current working environment is extremely delicate,” says Ben Hogg, managing director for EMEA and Asia at Lucid. “UK businesses must do better to support the differing needs of the workforce, particularly as it relates to individuals across multiple diverse communities—we have really only just begun to scratch the surface in planning for an inclusive and welcoming workplace post-pandemic.”

A third of respondents of the survey experience a form of disability. Of these, 39% of them stated that this has an impact on their ability to commute into the workplace. The pressure that employers are potentially putting on their employees, especially those with disabilities, could be harming their wellbeing. Catering for them is the best way forward.

No ‘One-size-fits-all’ Post-Pandemic Approach

In addition, 31% of respondents stated that they have some form of emotional or mental health condition. Half of these employees believe this would have an impact on their mental health if working on-site.

Bex Grove, associate director at Vitreous World, says: “There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to improving the workplace in today’s post-pandemic business world. What may seem inclusive and welcoming to some will not be considered so by others.

“Yet, if employers listen and react appropriately to all of their staff, they will be able to develop and implement policies and processes that address the needs of all employees, thus ensuring a safe, positive, and equal environment,” she continues. “Simply put—today’s employers have a responsibility to care about their people and ensure everyone is on an equal footing.”

How Can Employers Ease Transition Back To Work?

Respondents to the survey advised how their employers could help ease the transition back to the workplace. About a third (33%) would prefer a flexible, hybrid working approach. When it comes to mask-wearing, 32% stated they wanted clearer communication as well as social distancing policies.

Employers need to be clear with their employees—32% request clear policies on how employers will manage situations like COVID-19. They are particularly keen on clear communication with regards to policies on self-isolation and quarantining.

To create a workplace that is suitable for all, respondents have said that employers should prioritise inclusion. For example, 26% requested flexible start and end times to the working day. Another 26% asked for employees to be recognised and rewarded equally. An additional 19% called for company-wide meetings to be held to improve all-staff communications.

Graham Idehen, director of customer success at Lucid and co-founder of CORe (Colour of Research), says: “This research highlights the reality of employee sentiment in the wake of not just the global pandemic, but also the changing emotions we are seeing towards creating a more inclusive society as a whole.

“While there’s been more conversation on the topic, many businesses in the UK today are still simply paying lip service to initiatives that support diversity, inclusion, and the physical and mental wellbeing support of their employees—it’s time we change that across all businesses in all industry sectors.”

All these factors outlined in this research point towards improving workers’ mental health and wellbeing. Employers need to tackle them to ensure they create an inclusive work culture and a positive environment for all.