Combatting employee drift in the age of remote working

Employee presenteeism and mental health issues are the two biggest challenges currently facing UK companies according to new research by Aviva Business.

The pandemic prompted – or forced – many businesses to adapt quickly and introduce a remote workforce model to ensure that they could continue operating and in a safe way. In the ten months since the first lockdown began, the study finds that employees have re-examined their values, goals, and behaviours, and it has thrown many businesses into disarray with ’employee drift’ now commonplace.

In February of this year, Aviva undertook a major research project to look at the impact that this new ambiguous environment is having on key areas of working life. This research was then repeated six months later – prompted by COVID-19 – to ensure that the analysis reflected the true impact on work and society.

More than half of employees (52%) agree that the boundaries between their work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred, a large increase of 12% compared to before the pandemic. Almost a quarter (24%) are troubled by work interfering with their home and personal life and just 15% agree that their employer is trying really hard to understand what motivates them. Less than half (42%) believe their goals and objectives are clear.

Working life and wellbeing in the ‘new normal’

49% of the UK workforce is now working from home and whilst 53% prefer it over going into the office, 1 in 3 are neglecting their own mental health because of being too busy with work.

The research also finds employees are feeling more disillusioned with life and lacking an immediate sense of direction with their jobs. In August, only around one quarter (27%) agreed that they ‘really enjoy’ their work (vs. 34% in February). 43% ranked their mental health between ‘very bad’ and ‘fair’ (vs. 38% in February). Staggeringly, 84% had taken zero sick days over a three-month period. That being said, they are more likely to agree that their employer is working quite hard to provide training or tools to help them with their mental wellbeing (55% vs. 38% in February) and that they are creating the right atmosphere for people to flourish (45% vs. 38% in February).

Shifting employee-employer relationships

In this newfound ‘Age of Ambiguity’, the studies show that employees are increasingly ‘plodding’ through. They seek work-life balance, clear career progression and help with financial wellbeing and retirement planning. Failure to tune in to these needs and adopt a personalised approach will mean sacrificing productivity and losing valuable ground to competitors.

Paul Wilson, CMO at Aviva UK Life, Savings & Retirement says;
“We are living in an ‘Age of Ambiguity’. The balance between work and home life; employment and retirement; and the relationship between employers and employees are becoming increasingly fluid. While some welcome flexibility, for many others it creates unease and uncertainty.
We are encouraging employers to embrace the ‘Age of Ambiguity’ in supporting their workforce with their mental health, physical and financial wellbeing. To do so Aviva has created a list of Employer Considerations to help businesses navigate the impact of uncertainty on employee wellbeing and engagement”.

Employer considerations;

• Understand how they can deliver on emerging flexibility needs
• Personalise mental health and wellbeing support
• Maintain sense of purpose, clarity and autonomy in the workplace
• Prepare workers for fuller working lives and the transition from work to retirement
• Create more targeted interventions by understanding personality types

For more information on the Age of Ambiguity research please visit the Aviva Business Perspectives Hub: