The Impact of COVID-19 on Workers

The Impact of COVID-19 on Workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed our country, the world and each and every one of our lives. Not only have we faced devastating losses of life, but many have lost their jobs or worked through fear as essential front-line workers. Through it all, the way we work has completely changed, and the pandemic continues to alter the relationship between the employer and employee. While some have the ability to work from home and create a “new normal.” Others are forced to take on more physical work, working more hours and longer days. Still, it seems people on both sides of the working aisle find work to be more stressful and harder than before.

In many job sectors, employees may feel that overworking is strategic response to the pandemic. From front line workers to factory workers, everyone is burnt out and in need of a break. Regardless of how everyone feels, we are still fighting this pandemic and still need to show patience and perseverance. Prior to the pandemic, companies promoted taking breaks to rest and having adequate vacation time. Today, these messages are not as loud or clear to employees. These workers are now left feeling exhausted and burnt out.

The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS), showed that mental distress was 8.1 percent higher in April of 2020, compared to 2017-2019. In additional to mental overload and burden, people coping with sleep problems increased to 25 percent from 16 percent.

In Canada, an online survey of 500 Canadian workers showed that:

  • People felt less safe at work due to the disease
  • About 75 percent of participants reported increased anxiety and stress at work
  • Women reported a greater increase in tasks and stress than men
  • One in four participants admitted to negative experiences with their employer
  • Most respondents felt taken advantage of by their employer

In the U.S., a Pew Research Study showed that lower-income workers who are unable to work from home express the highest concern for COVID-19 exposure. In addition, minority workers expressed even more concern about catching or spreading COVID-19. The UKHLS, also confirmed these same findings in the UK, showing these minorities also showed increased anxiety and stress.

Finally, 23 percent of workers who are working the same job as they were before the pandemic feel less satisfied with their job. When the study probed further into job fulfillment, they found that people felt less job security, confused about management’s expectations and 26 percent said they felt creating a balance between their professional and personal lives was difficult.

Using the findings from these various studies, we can confirm that across the world managers and employees are facing the same problems:

  • Confusion around expectations
  • Increased work-related stress
  • Less balance between work and personal life

Having a deeper understanding for the struggles facing the workplace, it is not a surprise that many job sectors are struggling to find new hires. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, numerous companies have shown that they have only been able to hire one employee for every two job openings. At the top of the industry list of those struggling to find employees is the manufacturing industry. Not far behind is transportation, warehousing and utilities.

According to Jeffrey Clemens, an economist from the University of San Diego, “the pandemic rocked labor markets…it broke many linkages between workers and their pre-pandemic employers, and it introduced a broad set of factors that make it less attractive for people to be in the jobs that they previously held.” Clemens continued to suggest that many Americans feel comfortable waiting on the sidelines, unless companies provide compensation or greater benefits.

Statistics and employee sentiment may appear to be a pessimistic problem. However, some of these problems have simply been exacerbated by the pandemic, showing us that we already have access to solutions. As members of the health and safety community, we have all conducted assessments evaluating the safety of the workplace. It is time to take those attentive surveying skills to a new level and use them to enhance the workplace experience for your employees, to increase job satisfaction and prevent employee attrition.

In order to cope with the changes the pandemic has brought to the workplace, companies need to understand that employees need their mental and physical health addressed. As studies across the globe show, workers are being overworked and feel undervalued. Simply discussing the mental burden with workers can help managers uncover themes across the workplace and set up systems that help employees cope. According to the Harvard Business Review, mental health support needs to become a part of the new normal. They also suggest that in 2021, organizations need to further invest in wellbeing programs.

Time and again, one program that has proven effectiveness in improving workplace wellness and safety, is an insole program. It may sound simplistic but let us take a look at how foot protection and support can revolutionize the workplace or job-site.The pandemic has brought PPE to the forefront of every business. Now more than ever, employees and workers want to feel supported and cared for by management. Providing effective and supportive foot protection not only provides employees with the necessary foot protection they deserve, but it communicates the importance of their personal comfort.

Acknowledging that employees are currently facing tremendous stress, mentally and physically speaks volumes about a company’s values. Workers that are on their feet all day, working longer hours, on hard surfaces are subject to musculoskeletal injuries. Implementing an insole program, offering anti-fatigue dual layer memory foam insoles can prevent unnecessary aches, pains, injuries, workers compensation claims and absenteeism.

Providing employees with ergonomic solutions, like anti-fatigue memory foam insoles, can help employees experience less pain and fewer injuries, while promoting a culture of care and support. Positivity in the workplace spreads through a shared experience. Supporting workers from the ground up sends a clear message that every worker’s health, safety and comfort matters. The pandemic has clearly introduced more stress into the workplace. The COVID-19 crisis continues to demand our diligence and attention. Now more than ever, when workers tip-toe around burnout, employees around the world deserve even greater support and comfort from the ground up.

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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