Forced to avert a rapid rise in coronavirus cases, Boris Johnson has announced a second national lockdown across England from Thursday.
As the nation prepares to enter into this enforced month-long period of lockdown, symptoms of mental health issues are even higher now than they were during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Research from 87%, a digital platform that provides mental health monitoring and support to businesses and their employees, shows that the UK workforce is still struggling with the mental pressures of Covid-19. Since March, 87% has closely monitored changing sentiments and emotional behaviours of thousands of people, many of whom work on the medical frontline for organisations like the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and Air Ambulances UK.
Despite dealing with changing work environments for over six months, levels of anxiety, isolation and fatigue are not only at their highest since the emergence of the virus, they are still rising.
During this time, levels of anxiety – tracked through a detailed, personal and private assessment that 87% users undertake on an ongoing basis – have grown by 12%. Scores levelled off during the summer months but the announcement of a second lockdown has fuelled a further rise in nervousness, stress, fear and tension at a range of personal and work-related situations. Men and women aged 36-45 are the worst affected, and men more than women. Anxiety scores across male users of the platform have risen by 15%, compared to women at 10%.
Similar tracking has unveiled that feelings of loneliness are continuing to increase, with people feeling 15% more isolated now than they did during the first wave of the pandemic. A poll of users by 87% revealed that half (48%) of the workforce said they felt emotionally isolated from other people and those aged 18-25 are worst affected. Loneliness is especially prominent for women in this age range.
Much like the above symptoms, fatigue has gradually increased in recent months, by a total of 14% since the beginning of the year. Across all users, half (47%) said they had less energy than usual and women are reporting significantly less energy than men.
Many businesses have tried to put measures in place to avert such problems, introducing mental wellbeing benefits and shifting towards mental health plans, mental health first aid, regular check-ins and training on work-life balance. But this data clearly shows these schemes are not enough to prevent mental illness.
Among businesses using 87% to monitor the wellbeing of its employees is Virtual Forge, a leading provider of innovative technology services. Its Co-CEO, Garrett Doyle, said, “This data demonstrates how a more personalised, targeted approach is needed to deal with rising mental health issues across the UK workforce. We need data to reinforce our understanding of these increasingly prevalent issues as the period that we are exposed to the coronavirus extends. Employees are suffering from a range of worries and fears but without data to assess these, we are stuck reacting to problems as they crop up. Systems like employee assistance programmes are no longer enough; we need to identify trends as they emerge in order to implement preventative measures and avoid another pandemic – that of mental ill health.”
One positive trend is emerging amongst the declining mood of the nation, as workers become more self-aware. On top of regular assessments into mental wellbeing, users of the 87% app can follow specific programmes to get personalised advice on different areas of life and eventualities, curated by a team of psychologists. Whereas ‘Happiness’ was the most popular programme in March, this is now ‘Managing Emotions’.
Dr Serra Pitts, Clinical Director of 87% and a member of the British Psychological Society’s executive committee, explains, “As the virus first became an issue, people were most concerned with turning inwards to assess their quality of life and feelings about their individual self. That reflection has evolved as our feelings towards the virus and the circumstances it has inflicted upon us have changed. We can now see people focusing on how to deal with difficult emotions, such as anger, frustration and uncertainty. If we can take a positive out of this situation, it is that people are recognising that they are feeling lonely, tired, even fearful, and taking steps to cope with the impact of this difficult period.”
To help more people recognise the importance of being mentally fit and resilient throughout the coming lockdown and beyond, 87% has launched #3forme. This initiative is designed to help users become more self-aware, by spending just three minutes a day building positive mental health.
Andy Bibby, CEO of 87%, added, “We have guidance on what we need to do to stay physically fit and healthy. But when it comes to mental health, we have some catching up to do, because life gets busy and, with so many competing demands for our time and energy, it can be hard to prioritise our mental wellbeing. #3forme does just that; it’s the mental health equivalent of a balanced diet or taking 10,000 steps a day. It is designed to be simple, practical and effective and will help you build mental fitness and resilience by spending three minutes a day doing more of what helps your mental health and less of what doesn’t.”
Backed by scientific research and a team of experienced psychologists, 87%’s vision is to improve employee mental wellbeing and indirectly benefit that of society in general through increased engagement and productivity. Based on findings that only 13% of adults report living with high levels of good mental health, the organisation serves to support the remaining 87%. Its services include custom content through its app, daily interactions, weekly mental fitness reports and a podcast series.
For more information on how measurable data can give your business the means to support the mental wellbeing of staff, please visit: http://www.87percent.co.uk/.