Pressure on mortgage holders, and those subsequently impacted by rent increases, is leaving Brits struggling to cope with their mental and physical health – which, in turn, is making it hard for them to manage at work. Months of increasing financial uncertainty is having significant consequences on national productivity, sleep and wellbeing, new data by leading workplace wellbeing platform Unmind reveals.
Manifestation of stress in the workplace
According to a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults, some of the most serious consequences are playing out in the workplace. At a time where the UK economy continues to struggle to recover, productivity levels are suffering, with over half (53%) of Brits saying the mortgage rates and cost of living crisis are having a negative impact on their ability to do their job as normal.
Almost half (49%) of respondents reported having taken time off work due to stress in the last six months, with the impact being particularly strongly felt by both young people (two thirds – 66% – of 16-25 year olds) and those over 55 (72%). Overall, a third (33%) say the crisis is having a negative impact on their ability to focus at work, and over a quarter say that they are experiencing more ‘brain fog’ and subsequently, are making more mistakes than normal (27%).
Challenges continue beyond work
Outside work the repercussions continue, with those impacted experiencing both physical and mental health challenges. Two in five respondents (40%) reported experiencing sleep issues, and almost the same number (39%) said their energy levels were lower than usual.
Alongside sleep problems, many respondents reported engaging in unhealthy habits to cope with their stress. Those polled said that eating comfort foods (36%), drinking alcohol (19%), and smoking or vaping (14%) were all ways of dealing with the current financial crisis, while 55% said they were doing nothing at all to alleviate their stress and anxiety.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, personal relationships are also suffering during this turbulent time, with over a quarter (26%) of those questioned saying that their relationships with loved ones have been impacted by the crisis. This increases to 32% for those between 35-44, corresponding with the average age of a first time house-buyer in the UK (34, ONS) and the average age of first time parents and their first few years of parenting (30.7, ONS).
Critical employer support
With 39% of respondents saying the financial pressure is impacting their ability to care for both their mental (39%) and physical (31%) health, many are looking to their employers for support. However, despite some positive examples – 20% of those polled said they had received a cost-of-living bonus from their employer – employees are often left fending for themselves.
Two in five people (42%) indicate their workplaces have not offered any support at all in dealing with the ongoing challenges posed by the rising cost-of-living and mortgage rates, with a mere 16% being offered online mental health resources, and only 14% being aware of having access to Employee Assistance Programmes.
Furthermore, only 10% have been offered practical help such as access to a mortgage or personal finance adviser, while just 6% have been offered free sustenance and refreshments in the workplace, as a way to offset living costs. This is all the more concerning when 70% of those being offered support say they have found it beneficial in alleviating stress and anxiety.
Over a third (37%) of respondents say they are likely to leave their current employer and look for another job in the next six months due to their mental health. At the same time, and more worryingly, the same percentage (37%) are contemplating leaving the workforce entirely due to mental health concerns.
At a time when waiting lists to access talking therapy on the NHS have never been longer, the research demonstrates the role that employers can play in helping employees address the widespread issues the financial pressures are causing.
Commenting on the results, Dr Heather Bolton, Director of Science at Unmind, said “These results show the profound impact of the cost of living crisis on people’s mental and physical health, relationships and work life. Exposure to chronic stress and uncertainty can increase our vulnerability to unhelpful coping behaviours, mental health difficulties and greater feelings of isolation.”
“Poor mental health isn’t inevitable when exposed to financial difficulty, and employers can play a key role in protecting their workforce. Proactive, workplace-level guidance – such as access to psychological support and financial advice – can reduce the impact of stress on our health.”
Dr Nick Taylor, CEO and Co-Founder of Unmind, added: “Our data clearly shows that the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on mortgage rates is negatively affecting the mental and physical health of the nation. Not only is this impacting productivity, in some instances it’s even forcing people out of work and into economic inactivity thus compounding the problem.”
“At a time when the UK’s productivity is lagging, business leaders have a responsibility to support their teams’ mental and physical wellbeing, enabling performance.”
“Leaders have everything to gain: a happier, more engaged workforce, which will in turn boost productivity and ultimately their bottom line.”
To help both workplaces and employees during the mortgage rates crisis, Unmind has released a series of content on YouTube centered around addressing financial anxiety. To find out more, please visit https://youtu.be/qgLWWHzt3eI
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