Older workers less worried about mental health impact of lockdown

A new Aviva survey shows a significant difference in how older and younger workers view returning to the workplace, with older workers more worried about infection but less concerned about the mental health impact of lockdown.

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Older workers are more likely to be concerned about the risk of infection from colleagues and much less likely to be worried about the mental health impact of lockdown, according to a new survey.

The Aviva survey of over 2,000 employees shows only 29% of 16 – 24 year olds said they were concerned about the risk of being infected by colleagues, compared to 44% across all age groups. Infection concerns increased consistently by age group, with those over 55 most concerned (49%).

The survey also shows employees over 55 were the least concerned about the impact of lockdown on their mental health (7%). This compares to 21% of young employed people who said the changes under lockdown affected their happiness.

The biggest concern facing young people returning to work is confusion and a lack of communication over social distancing (39%). Young people were also the most critical of communication from their employer, with just 14% rating communication with their employer as ‘excellent’ – well below the average response of 25%.

Aviva says that 61% of those returning to work believe their employer will make the work environment safe to return to, but 35% don’t trust their employer to make the workplace safe and may not return to work for their employer.

For workers who feel neutral or negative about returning to work, infection – whether from colleagues (44%) or customers (33%) – remains workers’ top concern as they come back to their place of work.

Aviva’s research also shows that the greatest concern for Londoners returning to work wasn’t the workplace itself, but getting there. Concern about commuting by public transport was noted by nearly half (47%) of all respondents in the Greater London area, more than any other area of concern.

Employees’ concern of catching Covid-19 from colleagues varied widely by location. Compared to the national average across workers from all regions (44%), workers in or around Plymouth (57%), Norwich (55%) and Cardiff (55%) were the most concerned about infection from colleagues, while those in  Nottingham (34%), Southampton (37%) and Newcastle (38%) registered the lowest concern.

Attitudes towards risk were equally varied across industry sectors. Healthcare workers had the lowest levels of personal concern with regards to infection from colleagues (38%), compared to other sectors in the survey. They also had a relatively low score for concern of infection from patients (34%). The industry most concerned about infection from colleagues was the sector that included construction, at 60%.

Chris Andrews, Head of Risk Management Solutions at Aviva, said: “Our research shows that the biggest employee concern for returning to work is infection from colleagues and customers. Risk management and prevention strategies, once perceived as red tape, are now essential for businesses in order to keep their people and their customers safe as they open their doors again. Whether devising safe working conditions in a factory, or ensuring orderly social distance in a retail setting, businesses need to consider how they will minimise the risk of infection for their employees and their customers.”

Of those surveyed, 42% spent lockdown working from home, 26% continued to work in their usual place of business, 21% were furloughed and 6% continued to work in different locations in a key trade. A further 5% were neither working nor on furlough.

Of the workers that continued to work in their usual place of business, or continued to work at different locations, 80% said that their employer had taken some steps to improve their safety and the safety of customers entering the premises.

The top three changes implemented by businesses were easy access to hand-washing and hand sanitiser (65%), reducing the number of employees and/or customers allowed in the workplace (50%) and signposting traffic flow through the premises to support social distancing (42%).

Chris Andrews added: “It’s good to see from our survey that most employees say their employer has brought in some of these measures. But it is equally clear that not enough businesses are following all five basic points of the government’s guidance for employers. The risk of not adopting the government’s measures is the spread of the virus, a return to lockdown either locally or nationally and long-term impacts to UK PLC. We must not let that happen. This is a time to be absolutely focused on prevention and attentive to the needs of employees as they return to work.”



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