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British employees and employers may not fully agree on flexibility in the post-pandemic workplace

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Corporate / Mental Health / United Kingdom

British employees and employers may not fully agree on flexibility in the post-pandemic workplace

LifeWorks’ Mental Health Index™ shows that despite positive signs, declining psychological health continues to put the mental health of Britons at risk

LONDON, April 22, 2021 – LifeWorks, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental health score among Britons for the twelfth consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for March is -12.5. Negative scores indicate a lower level of mental health compared to the pre-2020 benchmark.

The March score is more than one full point higher than February (-13.8) indicating a slight improvement. At the one-year mark, while the majority of sub-scores have fluctuated throughout the pandemic, the score for psychological health has steadily declined over the last 12 months, decreasing from -2.1 in April 2020 to -5.8 in March 2021. This decline indicates that Britons’ overall view of their mental health status is worsening and less likely to be temporary. While the score has improved when compared to last month, it remains close to the score for February 2021 (-6.3) when psychological health reached its lowest point since the inception of the index.

“We’ve seen a positive shift in the mental health of Britons this month. Easing restrictions, lowering case counts and the country’s success in reaching vaccination milestones sooner than expected are leading to improvements in optimism, work productivity and feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “It’s important to remember, however, that Britons’ mental health is still well below the pre-pandemic benchmark. Small wins should be celebrated, but employers must continue to be mindful of the long-term implications. Providing ongoing resources and support is crucial in order to continue trending in a positive direction.”

Employees need increased flexibility in post-pandemic workplace
The return to the physical office in the post-pandemic landscape is uncertain, with increased focus on whether flexibility in the workplace is here to stay. While nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of employees want flexibility to work from home once the pandemic is over, less than one-quarter (22 per cent) of employees reported that they do not believe their employer will support remote work. This group also reported the lowest mental health score (-18.0) when compared to individuals who expect a flexible work structure (-11.7), indicating the heightened importance of employers listening to employees and adjusting policies to meet their needs.

“Significant improvements have been made across the country in reducing the spread of the virus, and many Britons are getting ready to return to the physical workplace in the coming months,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Transitioning to post-pandemic workplaces is a change that will be as disruptive as the transition that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic. Employers should consider the communication, flexibility and supports that their employees need during this phase, in order to mitigate a further decline in productivity related to the anxieties that come from change.”

Parents reluctant to access physical and mental healthcare due to changing workplace situations
Ongoing fluctuation between remote and in-person classroom policies continue to affect parents’ mental health at a significantly higher rate than non-parents, with the group among those experiencing the greatest decline in mental wellbeing throughout the past year. The research found that in March, the mental health score of Britons without children (-11.0) was significantly higher than those with children (-13.4 for one child, -16.7 for two children and -19.8 for three or more children).

At the one-year mark, changes in the workplace are also contributing to parents’ declining wellbeing. The research found that parents were 60 per cent more likely than non-parents to report being less willing to access physical healthcare and nearly twice as likely to report being less willing to access mental healthcare. Despite the pandemic stressors, parents are more than 60 per cent more likely than non-parents to report improved relationships with their managers.

About the Mental Health Index™
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey from February 17 to March 1, 2021, with 2,000 respondents in the United Kingdom. All respondents reside in the United Kingdom and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018, 2019. Click here to read the U.K. Mental Health Index™ report.

The Mental Health Index™ is owned by LifeWorks – the wellbeing company that acquired LifeWorks in 2018.

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. LifeWorks employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in more than 160 countries. For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners