Employee wellbeing | Back to the office: Happy or stressed?

Back to the office: Happy or stressed?

By Lord Mark Price, Founder, WorkL for Business

With ‘Freedom Day’ having been delayed, the Government’s advice is for people to continue to work from home for the next few weeks.

However, many businesses will be already preparing to bring their employees back into the office this Summer once Government advice changes. But how are employees feeling about a return to the office? Even just one or two days a week?

Here at WorkL for Business we have delved deep into our data to analyse how people are feeling about this return and to see if levels of stress and anxiety have been rising.

More than 100,000 individuals have taken the workplace survey devised by WorkL. Our tests measure factors such as working environment, relationship with line manager, sense of purpose and career progression.

To better understand levels of stress and anxiety we can take a look at the question, ‘I rarely feel anxious or depressed about work”. This question scores 61.10%, the lowest score to date, which tells us that there are high levels of anxiety amongst people who have answered this question. If we compare this to the question on well-being and happiness, this question scores 68.21%.

Delving into the data women score particularly low for this question, scoring 59% with men less anxious and stressed, scoring 63%. Worryingly people from a BAME background score 62% and comparing this to white people who score highly with 70%. It seems women and the BAME demographic currently feel anxious and stressed.

Looking at the difference between heterosexuals and the LGBTQ+ group there’s a stark difference in stress levels with the former scoring almost 12% more than those who identify as LGBTQ+. Looking at our overall data through the lens of sexuality we can see that people who identify as LGBTQ+ are generally less happy at work and score low across all of WorkL’s six steps compared to heterosexuals.

If we look closer at people with a disability they score low for this question, with 59% compared to people without a disability who score 61%. Age too has interesting findings with the most stressed demographic being 25-54 years. The least stressed are 55+ and those under 24 score in the middle with 60%. You can get more in depth analysis of the difference between genders and ethnicities in our data we published earlier in the year, available here.

So how have stress levels changed during the pandemic?

The hardest decrease in happiness and well-being levels occurred when information of lockdown easing was released in May 2020. Last Summer in July-August, offices were given an ok to return back to office and this is where we started to see a fall in numbers. Each time new reports were given of a return to work we saw a decrease.

In February of this year the Government announced from June 21st businesses should bring employees back into the office. Prior to the ‘Back to Office Date’ announcement, overall happiness was averaging around 61%. Once the announcement was made, a slight increase in ‘Anxiety/Depression’ levels was made followed by a steep 4% decrease after March 8. Overall Happiness has seen a decrease since the announcement was made by 2%.

Looking back at the past six weeks, anxiety and depression levels have seen a decrease in averages since the start of April but once Step 3 of restrictions were lifted, happiness started to creep upwards near the end of the month. Overall happiness has seen a decrease since Stage 3.

If we look at how different sectors have faired recently in their wellbeing and happiness scores, we can see that Travel and Leisure’s anxiety and depression levels have been unstable across the last 6 weeks. Business & Management, Retail, Health and Social Care and Retail have seen increases in the last week whereas the others have seen decreases. It’s easy to take a look at how individual companies score, with WorkL’s live data on the happiest sectors.

As people think about returning to the office, perhaps feeling stressed they might be looking for new opportunities or seek to change career. So right now employers will be focused on ‘Flight Risk’. Here at WorkL we can evaluate this and our findings show the current flight risk score is 39.59%. 39% of respondents are at risk from leaving their job. Looking closer at the date those who are within vulnerable groups within Disability, Sexual Orientation and Seniority Positions, have higher odds to leave their company. It will be interesting to monitor Flight Risk as more and more people return to the office.

To keep track of how the global workforce feel about their working lives, take a look at our free reports published each month with up-to-date analysis or watch our past webinars.

Find out more about WorkL for Business

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