COVID-19: Reflecting on a Year of Disruptions and Changes
January 27, 2021 / Corporate Wellness
They say hindsight is 20/20, and as we look back on the events of last year, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lifestyles and daily routines. COVID-19 disrupted the wellbeing and work environments of employees everywhere, and it seems that these disruptions will persist well into 2021.
In order to better comprehend the true impact of COVID-19 on employee wellness, Virgin Pulse conducted a member survey to examine how employees’ daily behaviors changed in response to the pandemic. As we continue to grapple with uncertainty, understanding just how much the habits of our workforce have changed can help organizations effectively address the wellbeing needs of their workforce going forward. Unsurprisingly, employees endured considerable stress and worry as they adapted to unstable and altered working conditions.
- 55% of the respondents transitioned to remote work.
- 86% worked the same amount or even more.
- 60% of the respondents who were not confident in their employer reported having trouble focusing on work and increased levels of stress.
It’s no surprise that the pandemic negatively influenced the health behaviors of employees. For respondents who transitioned to remote work, 43% reported unhealthier eating habits and 62% were more stressed. Those who had no change in work location also experienced negative changes in their eating habits and stress levels. Along the same lines, around 47% of respondents reported that they had decreased sleep hours. It seems that there was little sense of relief for many during these tumultuous times.
Financial disruptions were also prevalent. The surge of economic uncertainty resulted in job loss and the onset of financial instability for a great number of individuals. Financial struggles were expected for about one in every five people under age 60. As financial wellness plummeted, employees needed more help than ever and are now looking to their employer for support. According to an article from HR Executive, new data highlights that 75% claim that an employer-sponsored financial wellness program would positively affect their financial stress.
Unfortunately, the sudden quarantine and prolonged social isolation exacerbated mental illnesses and left many seeking support. Roughly 32% of at-risk members requested further mental health resources from their employer. The increased stress levels of the workforce called attention to the importance of engaging employees through corporate wellness programs. These mental health issues have further emphasized the need for tools like live coaching or creating a stronger virtual community through a digital health platform as well.
The central theme in these findings is that these disruptions significantly affected the healthy habits and routines of countless employees. The pandemic adversely impacted employees’ physical and mental health, finances, nutrition, sleep and more, which has taught us just how much consistency and routines matter. In fact, 55% of Virgin Pulse users did not show a decrease in health-supporting lifestyle habits like physical activity or sleep during the pandemic.
Now more than ever, businesses have an obligation to support the wellbeing of employees. The present circumstances have demonstrated the importance of building resilience in order to quickly adapt and move forward despite uncertainty. While there certainly is no one-size-fits-all solution to ensure that employees stay healthy and engaged in the face of difficult situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, digital health platforms with smart AI capabilities and targeted, personalized messaging can help employers address the varying needs of a diverse and inclusive workforce.