COVID-19 and the resultant shift to working from home has had a mixed impact on employees' well-being, according to the results of a global impact study by insurance company Cigna. The research, released on May 28, compares perceptions about health and well-being during the pandemic to a broader index that Cigna has been running since 2014. It found that even though working from home has improved physical health and family relationships, work stress has also increased significantly.
In Singapore, where a high proportion of the population has made the transition to remote work, Cigna's figures show that the amount of time people spend with their family has increased, and the quality of that time has improved. Furthermore, since the implementation of remote work, people feel that they are better able to take care of their family's well-being and have even drawn closer to their family members. The result has been a drop in personal stress levels.
Similarly, workers report getting more sleep, most likely because they no longer have to wake up early to prepare for work and and commute; and they are getting sick less frequently, which could be due to not being exposed to flu and cold viruses at the workplace, or simply a side-effect of greater hygiene precautions against COVID-19. And interestingly, the survey also found that fewer people are feeling isolated and left out, although fewer people are also reporting that they have close confidants.
The flip side of all these improvements in well-being, however, is a rise in work-related stress. The "always on" work culture was pervasive in Singapore even before COVID-19, with 72 percent of employees saying they felt the need to be "always on" in an initial survey conducted in January. That number rose to 78 percent in April. And the number of people working on weekends rose from 47 percent to 58 percent in the same period of time. Unsurprisingly, the number of people who say they see work as a source of stress has shot up—from 24 percent to 34 percent.
Balanced against the significant advantages to employees' well-being, it's worth looking into the root cause of these stressors and finding a way to defuse them.