Pandemic impact on employees one year on

Tired man holding his head in his hands
  • Employee life satisfaction has dropped by 10 percentage points since the start of the pandemic almost three in five are neglecting their physical health due to work and half said they don’t know how much to save for retirement.
  • However, majority of people agree their employers are genuinely concerned about their wellbeing.

More employees are neglecting their physical health due to work as daily anxieties and dissatisfaction mount up, according to a report* from Aviva, which lays bare the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on UK workers.

Aviva has been tracking employees’ changing experiences of the modern workplace since before the pandemic first struck. Research initially conducted in February 2020 was repeated in August after the first wave and again in March this year, as the pandemic has accelerated pre-existing changes in workplace culture.

The  report – Thriving in the Age of Ambiguity: building resilience for the new realities of work  reveals that, while the blurring of work-life boundaries has brought welcome flexibility for many, the increasingly ambiguous relationship between employers and employees is a major source of unease and uncertainty. The result is a growing strain on people’s balance between work and home life, employment and retirement.

Life satisfaction drops as anxieties rise

Satisfaction has taken a hit as the number of employees who are completely satisfied with life has dropped by ten percentage points, falling from 67% in February 2020 to 57% in March 2021.

At the same time, the number of employees who report feeling anxious from day-to-day has increased from 22% in August 2020 to 27% in March 2021.

This is particularly evident among female workers (35% in March 2021 vs. a national figure of 20%). Aviva’s findings chime with research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies**, which found that lockdown has affected the young and women most significantly as they make up the bulk of retail and hospitality staff.

Working life and wellbeing

Aviva’s report suggests more employees are neglecting their physical health due to being too busy at work – up five percentage points to 58% compared with 53% in February 2020 – while a vast majority (86%) state that they are checking emails outside of working hours.

However, more employees (61%) now agree their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, compared with 57% before the pandemic stuck. At the same time, employees are now more likely to agree their employer understands what motivates them – 44% vs. 36% in August.

Planning for the future

Last year, Aviva found the boundaries between work and retirement were blurring with employees becoming increasingly concerned about retirement, including how much they will need to save and when they can retire.

Now, fewer employees agree they are going to have to work longer and longer until retirement - 70% in March 2021, vs. 78% in August. However, far fewer know how much they need to save for later life. In March this year, almost half (48%) said they don’t know how much to save, vs 39% before the pandemic. This knowledge gap is more pertinent in females, who were significantly more likely to state that they don’t know how much they need to save (57% in March 2021, vs. 41% of males).

This represents an important opportunity for employers to demonstrate they can provide much-needed guidance and flexibility to support an employee’s journey into later life, providing a supportive environment and offering guidance on preparation.

"Our research reveals unpredictable futures are placing a significant strain on the balance between work and home life."

Debbie Bullock, Wellbeing lead at Aviva, commented: “We are living through an ‘Age of Ambiguity’ that is impacting society and workplaces across the UK. Elements of our lives which were previously certain are overlapping and changing beyond recognition. The concept of ‘work’ itself is becoming increasingly fluid as the world evolves faster than ever before.

“Our research reveals unpredictable futures are placing a significant strain on the balance between work and home life, with more employees reporting feelings of anxiety and dissatisfaction, as well as concern for their future due to a lack of clarity about their retirement prospects. 

"We believe employers can play a major role in guiding their employees through this ambiguity."

“We believe employers can play a major role in guiding their employees through this ambiguity. By promoting healthier habits and incremental shifts in attitudes and actions, we can empower people to make informed, balanced and positive career and lifestyle choices. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to employee support, and it’s vital businesses speak directly to peers to uncover and address individual concerns by offering tailored support.”


Research methodology

*Independent research of 2,000 UK employees working in organisations with over 1,000 employees was conducted on behalf of Aviva by Quadrangle in February 2020, August 2020 and March 2021.


Media Enquiries

Fiona Whytock

Retirement, Savings and Investments

Notes to editors:

  • We are the UK’s leading Insurance, Wealth & Retirement business and we operate in the UK, Ireland and Canada. We also have international investments in Singapore, China and India.
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