Work and health

Work and health

Have attitudes changed as a result of the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes in many people’s working lives, including a shift to home working, increased job insecurity and a concern about catching COVID-19 at work. This chapter examines if and how attitudes to work and health have changed since 2019, whether these changes can be attributed to the pandemic and what this means for future attitudes and policy in this area.

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People are more positive about the health benefits of work and more likely to support flexibility from employers

  • 41% think paid work is ‘very good’ for most people’s mental health, an increase of 15 percentage points since 2019. 27% think it is very good for most people’s physical health, an increase of 10 points.
  • 68% support employers allowing employees with health conditions to have a phased return to work from sickness – an increase of 14 percentage points since 2019. Support for employers adapting employees’ duties, allowing them to work from home and allowing them to work parttime has risen by eight, eight and six points since 2019.

People whose experiences of work have been affected by the pandemic hold different views

  • People who switched to working from home in 2020 are most likely to support flexibility from employers when it comes to employees with health conditions. 82% of people who shifted to home working favour employers allowing home working, compared with 67% of those who have always worked from home and 51% of those who travel to work.
  • 53% of people who are ‘not at all concerned’ about catching COVID-19 when working outside the home think paid work is very good for mental health, compared with 39% of those who are ‘very concerned’ about catching the disease.

The views of the youngest age group have changed in ways that are relatively distinct

  • Since the questions were first asked in 2015, those aged 18-24 have consistently been the least likely to view paid work as being ‘very good’ for people’s physical and mental health – but this difference is now even more pronounced. Between 2019 and 2020, the view that paid work is ‘very good’ for most people’s mental health increased by six percentage points among those aged 18-24, compared with a 15-point rise overall (and rises of 22 points and 25 points among those aged 60-64 and 65+ respectively).
  • Support for employers offering support to employees with health conditions has increased the most among younger people. Support for employers allowing employees to work part-time increased since 2019 by 12 percentage points among those aged 18-34, compared with a 4-point rise among those aged 35-54 and 2-point increase amongst those aged 55+.

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