‘Pandemic fatigue’ kicks in as 25% of employees feel badly about their work

misco’s third edition of Employee Wellbeing at the Workplace Survey shows how mental health at work is gaining more traction amongst workers and employers alike


The issue of mental health at the workplace turns out to be greater than one would imagine according to the third edition of the Employee Wellbeing at the Workplace Survey just published by misco.

“More companies are putting this subject higher on their agenda, but employees too have raised their expectations. We need a culture change where all stakeholders need to collaborate in a more emphatic and compassionate manner,” Joanne Bondin, director at misco, said.

misco’s first edition of its Employee Wellbeing at the Workplace Survey was published in 2020, purposely to study employee well-being at work on the onset of the coronavirus, followed by a second survey in 2021 to allow for comparisons.

Bondin said that whilst stress levels remained very much at the levels of previous years with 47% claiming that their stress level is poor to very poor, 39% also stated that their sense of optimism level is poor to very poor which is slightly more than the 34% reported the previous year.

“This can be easily attributed to the ‘pandemic fatigue’ which WHO defines as an ‘expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis’.”

In 2022, many employees started working the majority of their time from the office and this post-pandemic re-entry has brought about a great deal of changes to people’s working style. Whilst expectations and anxieties might have changed due to the pandemic, employers and employees both need to dedicate time and effort to readapt in a sustainable manner.

One of the things we sought to understand through this study conducted through fieldwork in the first quarter of this year and featuring 355 respondents, was how employers are perceived to be dealing with the mental health and wellness of their employees and whether they have implemented any initiatives to improve the mental well-being of their employees at work,” Bondin said. “In this regard, 92% of respondents felt that it is the employer’s role to do something about the mental well-being of the employees.”

Whilst in 2020, 50% agreed that that their employer takes the mental health and wellbeing of their employees seriously, this increased to 53% in 2021 and to 56% in 2022. But whereas in 2020, 41% felt their organisation encourages employees to talk openly about mental health problems, a figure that increased to 47% in 2021, this has now gone down to 38% in 2022.

When asked about how they feel at work, 75% of respondents claimed that their energy level is good to very good whilst 25% said that it is poor to very poor. This means a dip from the 81% of positive responses registered in 2021.

“Mental health in the workplace has become a pressing issue and the pandemic continued to highlight the importance of having an environment that is conducive of positive mental health in the workplace,” Bondin said. “This most recent survey allowed us to continue to build on our findings to be able to provide employers with an understanding of the employees’ perspective on their well-being at work.”

Besides an increase from last year’s 63% to this year’s 79% of employees who experienced stress and anxiety related to work, even fewer respondents (63%) rated their mental wellness positively compared to last year (69%).

“If we take into consideration that 68% of respondents also stated that their job has caused them mental health problems over the past 12 months, this too should put additional onus on employers to take the appropriate initiatives to ensure their employee’s wellbeing.”

Interestingly, the study asked respondents to indicate which negative emotions they felt in the last 12 months. 43% experienced excessive fear, worry or anxiety, 38% experienced extreme high or low moods and 38% experienced long lasting sadness or irritability.

Asked how stressful their job is, 13% replied that their job is constantly stressful whilst 58% of respondents answered that their job is often stressful. 28% rarely find their job stressful and 1% stated that they never find it stressful. These figures represent an increase when compared to 2021 with most of them citing low morale at the workplace, lack of support, tight deadlines, and long hours as the main reasons.

The research also showed that pressure (50%), heavy workload (43%) and tight deadlines (41%) are often experienced at work. Interestingly, whereas in 2021 job insecurity was marked as a stress factor by 9% of respondents, this decreased to 3% this year.

Supporting mental wellness

Undeniably supporting mental wellness in 2022 has been more demanding for employers than in previous years. Both organisations and employees have gone through a considerable number of changes in the recent years, and this, has revolutionised expectations and also behaviour at work.

Remote working and flexibility in work time has increased in popularity and these have undeniably put pressure on work-life balance initiatives that may have been appropriate in the past but need to be reconsidered due to the new ways of working. Moreover, employees have reacted differently to these new realities. Everyone had to find a way of working whilst keeping up relationships at work and remaining productive.

Respondents were asked what initiatives they are offered at work, and the majority of them (47%) mentioned that their organisation offers work life balance initiatives such as flexible hours, followed by an employee assistance programme/therapy (23%) and 22% mentioned that they have an open communication culture at their workplace.

But whilst many companies consider well-being measures to boost productivity, a third of respondents stated that their workplace does not offer any of the mentioned initiatives in order to improve the mental well-being of the employees.

“Mental health issues are dictating a big part of the agenda at the workplace and with the immense changes that our society has been experiencing, employers, rightly so, are increasingly dedicating more attention by implementing initiatives to address this,” Bondin said.

“As employees too are raising their expectations, a culture change needs to happen where all stakeholders come together to work and collaborate in a more compassionate manner.”

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