With much of the world now well into new phases of lockdown and, with additional controls in place across most of Europe, governments continue to insist workers work from home, where possible.
The shift in mindset has been felt and research from Totaljobs revealed that while employees are better prepared to avoid lockdown fatigue this winter they’re still looking for support from their employers.
What employees are telling us
The research shows a generally positive approach will be taken to further restrictions. Workers are applying learnings from their experiences since March 2020, to support their own and others’ welfare throughout.
There is evidence, however, that our enthusiasm for some of the activities which came to be a hallmark of the first lockdown is on the wane.
Only 5% of workers would like to take part in virtual pub quizzes this time around.
29% of the workforce don’t see their working situation impacted by lockdown this month, but for those who are affected, over 76% will take stock from the previous lockdown and adapt their daily routine this winter.
We are not all in this together
Despite 58% of those having to adapt to the second lockdown believing that it will not affect them, 1 in 3 (33%) are concerned about loneliness and isolation, with more than 1 in 3 worried about the overall effect of lockdown will have on their stress levels (36%). This is unlikely to be helped by the additional negative side-effects lockdown is expected to have on people’s sleeping habits (28%), eating habits (26%), and physical health (27%).
Concern for our physical wellbeing is one reason exercise routines have become more important for workers, with 1 in 4 (27%) committing to maintain or increase their exercise levels during the second lockdown.
However, as the weather shifts into winter and concerns about the virus continue, only 35% say they’re going to make an effort to leave the house on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean we’ll remain inactive, however, with 1 in 5 (19%) wanting to pursue a hobby or attempt to learn a new skill this time around.
Continue to support each other
With only 6% of workers openly talking about their wellbeing and mental health with colleagues and managers during lockdowns, it’s not surprising to see 15% of employees wanting more support and workshops to be provided by either their HR departments or external helplines. As with the first lockdown, the onus is on employers, CEOs, Chief People Officers and HR teams to reach out to their workforce during this time to ensure that these important conversations are taking place as we progress through the winter months.
Worryingly though, there are signs that despite our new working environments, employees are beginning to fall back into some of the traditional bad habits of the workplace.
More people are choosing to take fewer breaks during working hours during this lockdown, with only 14% planning to take time off for a lunch break or time away from the computer.
It’s no stretch of the imagination to see that 64% of workers still want additional support from their bosses as they experience the effects of a second lockdown. In fact, 53% believe that their bosses will be more conscious of their team’s mental health, and 42% believe that more resources will be put in place this time.
1 in 10 (10%) employees would even like to be offered more days off to look after themselves with a further 1 in 10 (10%) open to the option of receiving a lockdown care package or food vouchers from their employer.
An evolving employment relationship
Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs said: "For many nowadays, the office has been replaced by a kitchen table or a precariously balanced laptop on the sofa - and that will last a little longer for workers who aren’t able to return to their workplaces. We are living in anxious times and our work lives have taken a very different shape from what it was just at the start of the year.
"It is alarming to see in today’s results that during this second lockdown, workers in the UK are feeling less inclined than before to take breaks away from their computers, enjoy a lunch break or even leave the house. Taking time to move away from your workstation has many proven benefits and can allow workers to carry on with their day refreshed and reinvigorated and keep a physical activity if coupled with a walk outside for example.
"As we all work our way through this winter period, employers should continue to take practical steps to maintain the wellness of our teams and ensure that individuals don’t end up isolated or disconnected. WFH may have been something we got accustomed to this year but isn’t always a fully positive experience for all workers."
My 5-point plan to evolve a great working culture through extended lockdown
Maintain a close eye on your teams' morale, consider individual support and workshops on how to deal with anxiety and loneliness.
Encourage all your employees and give them the time to take regular breaks away from their remote workspaces - get out in some fresh air, go swimming or just find a quiet spot to read a book - and ensure you speak with them regularly.
Work with your HR and leadership teams to identify what you can do as an employer to improve your employees' physical and mental wellbeing in their working environment.
Regularly cascade your organisation's goals and objectives as they continue to evolve throughout new lockdown phases.
Trust your teams and employees to self-organise their workload to be delivered in the most effective way for them and the organisation.