Pandemic Hammering Mental Health But Businesses Responding

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a massive impact on employee mental health. But businesses are responding by introducing specific wellbeing-focussed initiatives and benefits.

Stephen Hough
Managing Director
Pandemic Hammering Mental Health But Businesses Responding
Stephen Hough
Managing Director
Group Health
October 2, 2020
Read time: 

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a massive impact on employee mental health. But businesses are responding by introducing specific wellbeing-focussed initiatives and benefits.

One in 10 business leaders facing burnout

The majority of UK executives have experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

According to Bupa Global’s Executive Wellbeing Index, more than three-quarters (78%) of business leaders have suffered with mental ill-health during the pandemic. The report has led experts to issue a word of warning about how tighter COVID restrictions could lead to another wave of intense psychological pressure.

Furthermore, the Bupa report also revealed how one in 10 UK business leaders has reported burnout. This tallies with the Centre for Mental Health’s forecast that nearly half a million more people will experience mental ill-health over the next year as a result of the pandemic.

When it comes to the reasons behind executives’ poorer mental health, the economy was cited as the biggest concern for high-end professionals, with less than half (44%) feeling optimistic about their nation’s recovery.

The Bupa index also shows that the UK’s initial lockdown, which resulted in reduced personal freedoms, took its toll on the mental health of business leaders, with 40% — the highest globally — reporting high levels of fatigue, lower motivation, lack of energy, as well as anger, impatience, disturbed sleep and mood swings.

90% of employers have introduced mental health wellbeing benefits

The good news is that many employers have responded to the growing mental health crisis caused by the pandemic by taking positive steps to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees.

Indeed, according to research by law firm Littler Mendelson, nine in 10 (90%) employers have made changes to improve wellbeing. These include: offering more flexible working schedules (57%), communicating frequently and soliciting responses on the pandemic response (51%), providing mental health services and Employee Assistance Programmes (31%), and training managers so they can better support staff (24%).

The Littler research also revealed how many organisations and their employees have been taking advantage of remote working arrangements. Eight in 10 (80%) respondents said their employees are either working remotely right now or it’s a change that’s being considered. Moreover, 41% of European employers said they are considering making remote working a long-term benefit.

In terms of the reasons behind more remote working, over a third (38%) of employers said it was due to the difficulty and cost of new health and safety measures, while 41% said it helped boost productivity. A quarter (25%) said it was because they are looking at this as an opportunity to close offices.

Stephan Swinkels, coordinating partner at Littler, said: “The survey results suggest a fairly high level of effort from employers to offer flexibility and listen to employees’ concerns to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on their wellbeing, but there is more that can be done.”


What is your organisation currently doing to safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of your employees? The figures don’t lie; burnout and mental ill-health are genuine problems affecting a significant number of staff, including executives. Can you business afford to lose key staff right now?

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