Job stress and disruptions [featured at the Davos Agenda 2021]

The pandemic has taken an emotional toll on employees globally, with 80 percent of those employed reporting they have faced challenges as a result of the pandemic. These stresses include personal circumstances such as family pressures, feeling lonely and isolated, and employer-related issues such as job security.

The author(s)

  • Natalie Lacey Public Affairs, USA
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Experiences of emotional impact were particularly prevalent across the countries in Latin America in the study, with nearly twice the proportion in this region reporting an impact, compared to China for example. These findings are no doubt related to the prolonged intensity of the pandemic in many countries in Latin America.

Younger and middle-aged workers were more likely to experience stress over the past year versus older workers. From a gender lens, the impact on women was not consistent across all countries, but markedly higher among younger women in China, Russia, Great Britain and LATAM markets. Working women were slightly more likely than working men to have experienced stress due to changes in work routines and organisation, stress due to family pressures, such as childcare and increased anxiety around job security.

While the gaps on gender itself are slight, there are significant differences in stress levels by household profile. Six in ten women with children in the household experienced stress due to family pressures, versus 34% of men with no children in the household. Those with children in the household are also more likely to experience working at unconventional hours.

These stresses are creating a sense of disengagement among a segment of employed citizens. An Ipsos study conducted across 16 countries shows that nearly a third of employed citizens worldwide feel disengaged from their work. But just as important is the impact on employees’ emotional state. While two in five of those who feel disengaged are frustrated and bored, nearly half of those who are engaged with work feel optimistic about the future. Similarly, a study conducted by Ipsos for Deloitte in May 2020 – indeed early in our pandemic timeframe, indicated that 38 percent of workers say the lockdown has had a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Much has been made regarding the shift to working from home; however, our data suggests that this is not the situation for most employees as of December 2020. One in two employed citizens report they are working from an office, with only 14 percent reporting they are working entirely from home. However, working from an office may not be the preferred option for employees – people working out-of-home and not in an office find themselves more at odds with their employers; more than a quarter give their employer a poor rating.

But it is not all positive for those working from home: the feeling of loneliness and working from home can also take its toll. People primarily working from home are dealing with more boredom than the rest and are more likely to feel like things are out of control. These employees are also most likely to see their job as a risk to their health and wellbeing.

With the New Year were hopes of a renewed optimism. Our data suggests that many employees are yet to enjoy such positive expectations.

Three in five employees across 25+ countries said that loss of income or employment is a very real (22%) or somewhat real threat (38%) in the next twelve months. Employees in most countries share this view with the notable exceptions of China, Germany and the Netherlands.

And the threat may be real. A recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum and Arizona State University showed that the most common response to the pandemic was to cut personnel expenses, which included workforce reductions (permanent 35%, temporary 28%), hiring freezes (permanent 28%, temporary 27%) and reducing hours for hourly workers (29%, 25%). These employers are expecting a return to the workplace, with 28 percent expressing an interest in returning earlier than expected, or wanting to return immediately, and an additional 38 percent wanting to return eventually. The two biggest factors driving a return is a drop in cases and the prevalence of vaccination. Download the presentation of the study.

Read the World Economic Forum article.

The author(s)

  • Natalie Lacey Public Affairs, USA