Employers earn high marks, yet nearly half of workers report a mental-health decline

KPMG: Employees are strained emotionally and mentally as they deal with a work-life balance, childcare responsibilities, and more, while navigating the COVID-19 landscape.

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Image: iStock/sam thomas

The onset of the pandemic introduced a bevy of lifestyle changes, affecting both home life and work life. Many offices quickly shifted staff to remote work. Employees who were parents then had to juggle jobs while assisting children's distance learning.

A recent KPMG survey showed that employees have seen improvements in their work experience during the last four months. The survey explores workers' attitudes and sentiment during the coronavirus crisis, and 84% of all respondents, 91% of remote workers, and 72% of onsite workers said they are satisfied with their company's response to COVID-19,

KPMG's "American worker survey COVID-19: Reality of work and the virtual workforce" focuses on responses from the actual workforce, thus providing a more accurate representation rather than polls querying bosses' impressions of how their staff are doing.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

There was a lot to unpack: Employees had to adapt to the new normal, despite changing daily routines, taking on new responsibilities and managing personal and work in the same environment. But most adjusted and settled, looking to the bright side, which meant bonding with family members in an unprecedented way. 

Job and life demands tax mental health

But the unpredictability and uncertainty left many struggling with job demands and mental health. In fact, according to the report, 77% of American workers said the demands of their jobs increased in the last four months. Additionally, 54% of onsite workers, 49% of all workers, and 45% of remote workers indicated their mental health decreased during quarantine. 

Unsurprisingly, there is a great divide among remote and in-office employees. Those who work onsite say that both their happiness in their jobs (53%) and the company's culture has worsened (43%). Meanwhile, an overwhelming number of remote workers (70%) said they're happy in their jobs, which have improved during lockdown, and that the company culture is better than before (71%).

But working remotely has enough benefits that 64% of employees say they want the flexibility to work remotely at least part of the time, for the rest of their tenure with the company. Workers seem to look respectfully and likely with trust toward the organization they work—for 81% of workers whose "organization issued a response to recent political and social events surrounding racial inequality" say they were satisfied with the response.

"Water cooler" conversations, which helped build morale and foster a sense of teamwork, are nearly a faint memory, and remote workers (34%) said their work relationships have suffered, and 24% of onsite staff agreed. Employees' relationship with their organization as a whole decreased during this time period, by 35%. 

How companies can support employees

Only one-third of respondents (35%) were provided access to mental health professionals or given resources (34%) developed by their bosses. No matter how enlightened society considers itself, there were organizations that put little value in mental-health resources, with one-in-five (17%) saying their jobs didn't provide any of the mental-health resources mentioned in the study. 

The report directly addressed company leaders—to continue forward, workers want:

  • Continued flexibility in how they work
  • Continued flexibility in where they work
  • Additional training
  • Support while working at home
  • More opportunities and resources for colleague collaboration

KPMG cited that by supporting employees, they take steps toward "building a more agile, innovative and sustainable workforce for tomorrow."

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By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...