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Three quarters of workers across the globe struggle as lockdown mental health pressures hinder work productivity

Challenging times for businesses as global research reveals impact on work performance of mental health and other pressures since COVID-19 began

London, 9 November 2020 — With lockdown restrictions being re-imposed across many countries, new insights from four major global markets, have revealed the significant impact they have had on office worker performance and productivity already. According to the new research over 4,000 office workers across UK, USA, Singapore and UAE, commissioned by Aetna International, a leading provider of health and wellness benefits and population health solutions worldwide, three quarters stated that performance and productivity has suffered considerably due to mental health pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic with younger workers in particular, 88% of those aged 18-24, most affected.

For businesses, the findings highlight potential major issues to come with the many factors negatively impacting worker performance so far since the COVID-19 outbreak began. These include poor mental health (74%), long working hours (70%), blurred lines between work and home life (67%) as well as remote working set-up (66%).

The research was commissioned by Aetna International as part of an ongoing investigation into the health pressures facing employees globally and the steps that businesses could take to address these. Workers between the ages of 18 and 34 have been most affected. Eight in ten workers aged 25-34 said that stress over working long hours had hindered their productivity, while just over three quarters (76%) of 18-24 year olds said the struggle to separate work and home life had negatively impacted their performance.

Richard di Benedetto, President at Aetna International said:

“As heightened restrictions and lockdown measures are now in play across the globe, it has never been more crucial for employers to understand the pressures facing their employees.

“The findings suggest that COVID-19 is increasingly segregating employees’ health and wellness needs according to a range of factors including age, work locality and gender. Businesses have an opportunity here to rapidly evolve their approach to worker support to ensure it is on-point.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the economic impact of the pandemic has created anxiety that is further impacting employee health and productivity. 71% of global workers said worrying about being furloughed, experiencing pay cuts or losing their job had negatively impacted their performance. This was a particular issue for workers in Singapore, where 77% agreed this was an issue compared to 66% in the UK, 70% in the US and 72% in UAE.

These worries are also being felt keenly by younger workers; nearly eight in ten (77%) workers globally aged 18-24 said that anxiety over furloughs, pay cuts or losing their job had negatively impacted their performance, compared to a much lower (though still significant) 52% of those aged over 55.

In addition, disruption to personal lives and living conditions has been a considerable source of stress throughout the pandemic. Nearly two thirds (64%) of workers aged 25-34 said that pressure on their personal relationships had impacted their work since COVID-19 began, compared to just over half of (54%) of all workers globally. While two thirds (66%) of all workers said that stress caused by being locked down with friends, family or housemates had a negative impact on their performance at work, this increased to 76% for those aged 18-24 and 73% for workers aged 25-34. Meanwhile far less (52%) of those aged 45-54 reported the same issues.

These pressures were exacerbated for a third of global workers (33%) who said that senior leadership not being available to discuss their job concerns had negatively impacted their work performance. Plus, close to a quarter (24%) said senior leadership not communicating about the health support available to them has had a detrimental impact on their productivity since the start of the outbreak. This suggests that the way businesses communicate and engage with employees could play a key role in alleviating some of these pressures.

Richard di Benedetto, President at Aetna International, added:

“The pandemic has clearly affected businesses in myriad ways, but perhaps most significantly when it comes to people’s emotional and mental well-being. Our research highlights the need for a rapid step-change in the delivery of mental health care to cater to short-term spikes in demand and the long-term needs that are emerging.

“As COVID-19 continues to disrupt everyday life across the globe, and with lockdown once again a reality for many, businesses need to think about how to communicate with employees in a clear, well-defined manner, and engage meaningfully. Business leaders must continue to lead with compassion and strive for a corporate culture that puts well-being at its centre, ensuring employees know what support is available to them, whether that’s locally, at home or in the palm of their hand.”  

To read more about Aetna International’s research into the perceptions of employees and their employers when it comes to the provision of mental and physical health support, visit:

About Aetna International

Aetna International is committed to helping create a stronger, healthier global community by delivering comprehensive health care benefits and population health solutions worldwide. One of the largest providers of international private medical insurance, Aetna International serves almost 900,000 members worldwide, including expatriates, the globally mobile, and local nationals. Its global benefits include medical, dental, vision and emergency assistance and, in some regions, life and disability. Aetna International also offers customised technological and health management solutions for health care systems, government entities and large employers to improve people’s health, enhance quality of care and contain costs. Aetna International is a subsidiary of Aetna, a CVS Health company, which serves an estimated 39 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. For more information, see or LinkedIn.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

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