Britain faces an anxiety crisis as people return to work

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Written by Jon Kennard on 26 June 2020 in Press Zone
Press Zone

While the physical impact of Covid-19 is becoming increasingly clear, Britain is also facing a mental health crisis with increased levels of anxiety as people start to think about their return to work.  

  • 65% of people are anxious about returning to the office

  • Just over a third of people don’t want to return to their ways of working prior to lockdown

  • Over 40% of people would now judge their colleague if they came to work with a cold

As lockdown measures start to relax, people across the UK will be considering what the ‘new normal’ will look like. As a result, 65% of workers are now anxious about returning to the office, according to new research.

The most common concern was around social distancing while in office spaces – which was reported by 46% of those surveyed.

Elsewhere, the potential spread of infection while commuting and worries about the office not being clean enough, also ranked highly on the list of concerns.

Commissioned by Bupa Health Clinics, the study of 2,000 adults also found that workers are wary of colleagues, with two-fifths admitting that they’d now judge a colleague for coming into work with a cold.

Bupa Health Clinics has launched Assess Me, Test Me and Check Me to allow businesses to risk assess their employees, test them for the virus and conduct temperature checks in the office. They’ve also created an easy-to-use checklist which businesses can use to ensure they have everything in place for a safe return to the office.

Alaana Linney, Commercial Director at Bupa Health Clinics, said “The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted us all, individually and as an employee. It has closed offices and workplaces across the country and forced companies to move their employees to full-time remote working.

“As we move into the next phase and start to think about returning to the office, it’s important that businesses put procedures in place to support their staff to feel safe when returning to work and reducing the anxiety that comes with it.

“No-one is sure what the ‘new normal’ will look like but it’s time to think about what we’ve learnt from the pandemic and implement new ways of working to support staff moving forward.”

Alaana Linney outlines her tips for businesses to support a safe return to work:

  1. Introduce new policies

If you don’t have policies in place to support flexible working or allow employees to work from home, now is the time to introduce them. Our results show that employees want to continue some of their new working practices, and this is something businesses will need to consider moving out of the pandemic.

It is also a simple way to reduce anxiety. If employees need to commute using public transport, allow them work flexible hours so they are traveling at different times and avoiding busy periods.

  1. Educate yourself

Making sure you and your teams are properly prepared for the return to work is really important to help reduce anxiety amongst staff. Managers’ guides need to be introduced for different scenarios the virus has caused. These should include supporting with bereavement and mental health issues. Listen to your employees and understand their different needs.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve created a number of different materials to aid employees working at home and to help them feel comfortable going back to their normal place of work. Our checklist provides employers with an easy to use tool to assist with return-to-work procedures.

  1. Provide access to services

Now more than ever people are aware of their physical and mental health and wellbeing and need provisions in place to accommodate that. Whether this is access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), virtual GP services or annual flu jabs, employees need to know that they have services in place to support them and their families.


Other key statistics:

Top five concerns for returning to work:

Overcrowded social areas within the office – 46%

Difficulty social distancing within the office – 42%

Issues with commuting (including risk of spreading infection) - 38%

The office not being clean enough – 37%

Losing current work/life balance – 27%

Regional breakdown


Anxious about returning to work

East Anglia


East Midlands




North East


North West




South East


South West




Northern Ireland


West Midlands


Yorkshire and the Humber



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