Half of workers are kinder to colleagues than before Covid, poll finds

Research also found mental health stigma reduced during the pandemic, but experts say businesses could still improve the support they offer employees

Half of workers have said they are kinder to their colleagues than they were at the start of the pandemic, but many are still not getting the mental health support they need at work, a poll has found.

A poll of 1,000 British workers by AXA found 55 per cent said they had been kinder towards their coworkers than they were pre-Covid, while 29 per cent said they were more open about their mental health with their colleagues.

More than half (57 per cent) of workers polled also felt that the stigma around mental health was declining as a result of the pandemic.

As further evidence of this destigmatisation in the UK, 49 per cent of Brits said they feel better able to acknowledge when they may need support, while 46 per cent reported feeling more compassionate to others compared to pre-pandemic.

However, just 40 per cent of British workers said they had enough mental health support at work, despite evidence showing that employees with the right support are happier and more productive.

Where employees had been provided with wellbeing initiatives and flexible working, 45 per cent said they were more motivated, 38 per cent said they were more productive and 32 per cent said they performed better. On top of this, 28 per cent said they were happier in their jobs.

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Claudio Gienal, CEO of AXA UK & Ireland, said that while UK workplaces were becoming “kinder and more empathetic”, many businesses still needed to do more to provide mental health support to their workforce and make them aware of what support is available.

“The pandemic has posed many challenges, but one positive is that it has allowed us to have more open conversations about mental health at work. Leaders should be using this opportunity to look at the support they’re providing and where gaps may be,” Gienal said.

Separate research by AXA, which polled 2,000 UK adults, found that 70 per cent of respondents felt they coped well at work during the pandemic.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) said they felt more confident talking to their employer about their mental wellbeing issues, while 42 per cent said the pandemic had showed them that having strong connections with people at work was important for their mental health.

Dr Oliver Scott Curry, research director at Kindness, said the pandemic had disrupted people’s social networks and forced them to create relationships in a new way. “Kindness is a great way of doing this, and the pandemic has offered plenty of opportunities to demonstrate kindness and empathy,” he said.

Scott Curry added that, consistent with other research, this poll suggests that increased empathy at work leads to improved employee wellbeing, which in turn can lead to greater career success for individuals. “There’s a real case for businesses to experiment with measures that support their employees and ensure they’re happy at work,” he said.