A year into the COVID-19 lockdowns sees two in three workers (68%) admitting that their productivity has increased thanks to the working from home environment created by the virus, according to the Re:Me report from MetLife UK. This was felt most strongly by employers at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and by employees aged between 18-29 and older women (50+).
The report also found that employees who have experienced increased levels of productivity were more likely to want to work flexibly in the future; worry about their health more and believe that pay is no longer their most important benefit.
Although productivity has increased for many, almost one in three (32%) workers admit that the same can’t be said for them. Of which, two in five (41%) employees believe that their mental wellbeing has impacted their productivity levels, while a third (33%) say worries about their personal finances have affected their productivity levels. When compared to employers’ beliefs of the impact these circumstances have had on employees’ productivity, there is a distinct difference in perceptions. 56% of employers think employees’ personal wellbeing has impacted their productivity levels and 49% believe personal finances have had an impact on productivity.
Caring for loved ones who may have had COVID-19 or are self-isolating has also impacted employees’ productivity. A third (31%) of workers agreed that looking after friends or family who have been unwell has had an effect. And this is mirrored by employers – with one in four (44%) businesses admitting they have seen productivity levels hindered by their employees needing to care for loved ones.
COVID-19 has caused a real shift in employees’ future priorities. Whilst employees’ values remain focused on job and financial security, self-care including health and wellbeing has become far more of a priority. The report found that employers who recognise the importance of providing more holistic support to employees, and who had a greater understanding of their health and wellbeing needs, can expect higher productivity, loyalty and belonging in the years to come. Of those who said that they were considering leaving in the next 12 months, 40% said that if their employer demonstrated more care for their physical wellbeing this would increase their intent to stay at the company.
With the government recently publishing its roadmap out of lockdown, businesses need to act quickly to put support in place for employers returning to the office. If an employee is transitioning from working at home or returning after being furloughed or on sick leave, it is up to employers to provide personalised support. This will ensure employees longer-term happiness and loyalty to the company – all of which can have a significant impact on productivity and business’s bottom line.
Adrian Matthews, EB Director at MetLife UK, comments: “Productivity is key to business success, so it is crucial that employers understand what they can do to ensure that employee morale and productivity remains high.
“The past twelve months have re-shaped our way of life and our priorities when it comes to the support and benefits we want from our employers. While previously pay and job security would have been the most important considerations, the pandemic has brought health-related concerns to the forefront. COVID-19 has led many people to discover better ways of working for them that fit around their familial responsibilities or personal preferences. As organisations begin to think about returning to the office, it is important to seek staff sentiment to understand how they work best and the support they need.
Working with employees to ensure they feel comfortable will lead to greater productivity in the longer term, which can have a significant impact on businesses’ bottom lines.
“In the case of employees who are returning to work after an extended period of absence, the thought of returning can feel daunting and overwhelming. The role of the employer here is to recognise the additional support employees may need and find solutions to support their transition back into work. By taking a greater interest in employees’ personal wellbeing this can in turn lead to greater loyalty to the business in the long term, improved productivity and less staff absences.”
To support employers, MetLife recently launched ‘Connected at Home’, in partnership with HCB Group, a new support service for employers to help with home working and staff wellbeing. For businesses who are planning to adopt a hybrid work model with employees working from both the office and at home, ensuring the relevant support is in place will help to eliminate anxieties staff may have about returning to the office environment.
Equally, the role of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) should not be underestimated and not just for when things reach crisis point, but for the everyday challenges and support that they can provide to help prevent small worries escalating. Our research has reinforced just how critical this is and ensuring individuals know how to access the support 24/7 is crucial. That’s why at MetLife we have extended our EAP free of charge to those schemes with up to 1,000 employees covered. Wellbeing is, and must remain, a business imperative.
Realign, the second chapter in the Re:Me report series from MetLife explores how the recent changes in the ways of working have fundamentally affected the nature of the employer/employee relationship. Our research shows how employers must now take the time to understand this shift and realign the business priorities with employees’ needs for a post-COVID-19 world. To find out more visit www.metlife.co.uk/ReMe.