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Nearly six in 10 employees ‘neglecting physical health due to work life’

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Growing numbers of employees are neglecting their physical health due to work, with nearly nine in 10 checking emails outside of their regular hours, research suggests.

Aviva has been tracking employees’ experiences since before the coronavirus lockdowns started, with regular surveys.

While home working and the blurring of work-life boundaries has brought welcome flexibility for many people, the increasingly ambiguous relationship between employers and employees is also causing unease, according to the findings.

For some, it is putting a growing strain on the balance between work and home life.

Nearly six in 10 (58%) employees report neglecting their physical health due to being too busy at work – up from 53% when research was carried out in February 2020.

Nearly nine in 10 (86%) said that they are checking emails outside of working hours.

The proportion of employees who are completely satisfied with life has dropped by 10 percentage points in Aviva’s latest research, falling from 67% in February 2020 to 57% in March 2021.

And the proportion feeling anxious day-to-day has increased from 22% in August 2020 to 27% in March 2021.

More positively, 61% of employees now agree their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing, compared with 57% before the lockdowns started.

Employees are also now more likely to agree their employer understands what motivates them, at 44% versus 36% last August.

Fewer employees agree they are going to have to work longer periods until retirement, at 70% in March 2021, compared with 78% last August.

However, fewer are certain of how much they need to save for later life.

In March this year, nearly half (48%) said they do not know how much to save, compared with 39% before lockdowns.

Women are particularly unsure how much to save, with 57% being unclear.

Debbie Bullock, wellbeing lead at Aviva said: “We are living through an ‘age of ambiguity’ that is impacting society and workplaces across the UK.

“Elements of our lives which were previously certain are overlapping and changing beyond recognition. The concept of work itself is becoming increasingly fluid as the world evolves faster than ever before.

“Our research reveals unpredictable futures are placing a significant strain on the balance between work and home life, with more employees reporting feelings of anxiety and dissatisfaction, as well as concern for their future due to a lack of clarity about their retirement prospects.

“We believe employers can play a major role in guiding their employees through this ambiguity.

“By promoting healthier habits and incremental shifts in attitudes and actions, we can empower people to make informed, balanced and positive career and lifestyle choices. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to employee support, and it’s vital businesses speak directly to peers to uncover and address individual concerns by offering tailored support.”

Surveys with more than 2,000 UK employees in larger companies were carried out in February and August 2020 and March 2021.

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