Majority of Brits want their work life to return to how it was before Covid, research shows

Experts warn flexibility remains key as new findings suggest 2021 restrictions have been more difficult for workers than previous lockdowns

The majority of workers want their work life to return to the way it was before the pandemic, a survey has found.

A YouGov poll of 1,039 UK workers, conducted on behalf of Indeed, found that 44 per cent wanted their work life to return ‘largely’ to the way it was before, while a third (31 per cent) wanted it to return exactly to the way it was before the first lockdown last year.

The research also suggested that the 2021 lockdown has been more difficult for workers than previous periods of restriction, with 44 per cent saying their mental health was worse than it was last spring. Just 15 per cent of workers polled said their mental health was better than this time last year.

This was particularly the case for women, half (50 per cent) of whom said their mental health was worse than this time last year, compared to 38 per cent of men.

Bill Richards, managing director of Indeed, said the research showed the extent of the impact of the most recent lockdown on workers. But, he added: “Many are also feeling optimistic that their mental health will soon improve, thanks to the easing of restrictions and the prospect of a return to the workplace.”

Similarly, those furloughed were found to be struggling marginally more than those still in work, with half (51 per cent) of full-time furloughed workers reporting that their mental health was worse than it was during the first lockdown, along with 57 per cent of workers furloughed on a part-time basis.

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Nearly two in five (38 per cent) furloughed workers said a return to work would improve their mental health – the same proportion that said their wellbeing would be improved if they had more certainty over their employment.

Just over two-fifths (41 per cent) of all those polled expected their mental health to improve over the next three to six months as restrictions started to lift.

Richards said, for furloughed workers, the prospect of getting back into a work routine looked set to improve wellbeing. But, he added, employers needed to keep flexible working options open. “During the pandemic, flexible working has been highly valued by employees who have been able to work from home or adjust their working hours, and we know such flexibility can help to improve people’s mental health and boost productivity,” he said.

“It is therefore essential that, as people return to the workplace, employers continue to communicate with their employees about mental health and build a culture where workers feel supported and are comfortable finding out if their company offers flexible working options that could help them.”