Almost half of workers in the UK say their job has become more stressful because of Covid-19, our new research has found.
According to our Public Perceptions Survey, 48% of people in work agree the pandemic has made their job more stressful.
But when it comes to key workers that figure rises to 60% who said their job had become more stressful.
Employees' mental health
Kris Ambler, our Workforce Lead, said it was vital employers and managers pay attention to their employees’ mental health.
Kris, who was speaking as part of Stress Awareness Month, said: “Many people may have been going into work since the start of pandemic, possibly into high risk or frontline roles, or they might have recently returned to work after spending time at home.
“Some others may have been put in furlough or are facing the uncertainty of redundancy.
“Whatever the circumstances, millions of people have been dealing with some incredibly stressful and unusual circumstances.
“As we begin to move out of lockdown, and towards something more like normality, people will need help, support and reassurance as they return to workplaces.
“It will be vitally important for employers and managers to pay attention to the health and wellbeing of employees.”
Our Public Perceptions Survey, which was carried out by YouGov, found that 64% of workers felt their job was a key factor in their emotional wellbeing.
Almost three out five workers (58%) agreed their employer was at least partly responsible for their emotional wellbeing.
And almost half (49%) said their employer had supported them throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Support included more emphasis on supporting employee mental health (28%); more flexibility for parents or those with caring responsibilities, and initiatives to help keep up staff morale (both 25%); and flexible working hours. 34% said their employer had not introduced any new initiatives in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kris said: “No matter what your job is, many of us might be sharing common feelings about going into work at this time.
Duty of care
“Employers have a duty of care to their staff, with almost two-thirds of workers who completed our survey agreeing their employer is at least partly responsible for their emotional wellbeing.
“Individually we need to understand what is causing us stress at work and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.
“Often work itself can be the source of stress, or other things that are happening in a person’s life, like bereavement or relationship problems. It might be a combination of things that leaves a person feeling overwhelmed.
“Talking to a counsellor can help to identify and address problems early, alleviate the psychological impact of negative work situations and keep employees working effectively and productively.
“It’s possible to access the support of a counsellor through your employee benefits scheme or Employee Assistance Provider (EAP), privately or through NHS services.”
To find a local counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you with stress, see our Therapist directory.
Our member Hansa Pankhania offers tips for managing stress around home working and changes to work patterns.
It's worth being aware your employer has a duty of care to carry out a risk assessment and ensure you're given adequate support whether you choose to continue working from home or return to the office.
The risk may become invisible for remote workers so ensure regular assessments are made. Reasonable adjustments to address the risks should be negotiated and put in place, so speak to your manager or HR about any concerns you may have. Something that works for another colleague may not work for you so it's important to assert your needs for you to give your best in your work.
Loss of routine
Try to have a regular routine for work and domestic tasks. Try to start work in the morning and finish in the evening at the same time if you can. Resist the temptation to carry on working in the evening or weekends to avoid burn out. Set aside time for selfcare as it's easy to overlook this in a busy work and domestic routine.
Blurring of work and home boundaries
Having a clear work space which you can shut off at the end of the working day is important. If physical space is an issue, use simple actions such as putting all work equipment in a corner and covering with a sheet until the next morning. Cordon off a corner of the working space at home so it's not staring at you outside of work hours.
Loss of motivation and confidence
Tackle one thing at a time and give yourself a pat on the back for each small achievement. For example, if you have a big project, break it down into small manageable tasks and focus on one step at a time.
Reach out for support. Call a colleague for moral or practical support in the same way you'd sound out ideas in a team environment. Join in group activities organised by your team or telephone or video call colleagues on a regular basis.
When the pandemic is over, ensure you meet up with local colleagues regularly for support with work but also to stay connected on a social and psychological level. It's still possible to have virtual coffee breaks, lunches, celebrate birthdays and other special moments that you share with colleagues.
Ensure you have time away from your workspace to avoid screen fatigue. Go for a walk or practice relaxation in another part of your home.
Find regular opportunities to get up from your desk as reduced movement causes ergonomic issues such as back ache. Move away from the desk every half an hour to do a few stretches or walk to another area of your home.
Returning to your work location
Some people might want a gradual return to their work location step by step. Speak to your manager about a phased return.
Many organisations have an Employment Assistance Programme offering counselling and other support, so check this out with your manager or HR.
What is stress? How do you deal with stress? BACP member Hansa Pankhania explains how counselling can help.
Seven things you can do to reduce stress at work
BACP member Hansa Pankhania gives her top tips
In the context of a challenging employment market, driving growth in paid opportunities and bringing employers closer to our professions is a key priority for BACP.