16 July 2021
Almost half of staff care less about their careers since COVID

A new study by Aviva found 47% of employees were less career-focused because of the pandemic. The study comes as people in England prepare to return to offices on July 19 – dubbed as ‘Freedom Day’ – when all remaining restrictions will ease, including working from home guidance.

Aviva’s study of more than 2,000 employees of larger companies found that just 14% would favour returning to the office full time, with 15% saying they would prefer to work from home five days a week. Around two in five people said they could never switch off from work.

Key findings include:

  • More than a third (35%) feel their work/life balance has improved during the pandemic, yet one in five (20%) have been negatively impacted
  • 44% feel they can never switch off from work as many employers are seen to encourage an always-on, ever-present culture
  • Women are more concerned about burnout and less likely to feel hard work entitles them to take “me” time back during office hours
  • Diverse preferences emerge on hybrid working, putting pressure on employers to tailor their response
  • 69% of employees say flexible working will play a more important part in future job/career choices.

“One result of this always-on, ever-present culture is that 40% of employees are concerned about work-related burnout,” the insurer said.

Half of people complained that the boundary between work and home had become “increasingly blurred”. And the impact of that has disproportionately affected women, with 46% concerned about burnout – compared to 35% of men.

Meanwhile, 24% of women said the pandemic had a negative impact on their work-life balance. That compares to 16% of men.

Debbie Bullock, wellbeing lead at Aviva, told the BBC’s Today programme that the pandemic and lockdown had “given people pause for thought about where work fits into their lives”.

She added that technology and the digital age meant it had “become harder for some people to switch off” from work.

“The pandemic may have been a collective experience, but the impact has been fragmented in so many ways, with women especially facing particularly acute stresses from the blurring of lines between home and work,” Ms Bullock said.

She said it was important for employers to be aware and respond to the difficulties staff are facing and take action to help: “If you don’t make time for wellness you are going to have to potentially make time for illness.”

He told the Telegraph: “I think for young people, especially, that ability to be in your office, be in your workplace and learn from others more directly, is something that’s really important and I look forward to us slowly getting back to that.”

With freedom day fast approaching, all attention is on workers returning to the office and the nature of flexible working options. What will you be doing going forward?

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