22 April 2020

How is coronavirus affecting UK workers?

Four weeks into the UK lockdown, new data shows that workers’ wellbeing, workloads and finances are all taking a hit during the Covid-19 crisis


Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery. Her writing focuses on HR systems and solutions, as well as the employee experience at work.


Health and wellbeing Leadership and management


Four weeks into the UK lockdown, new data shows that workers’ wellbeing, workloads and finances are all taking a hit during the Covid-19 crisis

A month on from the UK going into lockdown on 23 March 2020 to halt the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), and data is starting to emerge about the restrictions’ impact on UK workers’ finances, health and mental wellbeing.


Health and wellbeing

The vast majority (85%) of UK adults are very or somewhat worried about the effect of coronavirus on their life right now, according to data collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between 27 March and 6 April 2020. More than half (53%) of adults said it was affecting their wellbeing, with nearly half (47%) also reporting high levels of anxiety.

The Institute for Employment Studies’ (IES) Working at Home Wellbeing Survey has also found that – after just two weeks of lockdown – homeworking is having a profound effective on workers’ physical and mental wellbeing. More than half of survey respondents reported experiencing new musculoskeletal aches and pain, especially in the neck, shoulders and back. A fifth (20%) of those surveyed admitted that their alcohol consumption had risen, a third (33%) said their diet had become less healthy since working at home, and 60% said they were exercising less. A quarter (26%) admitted they had worked in the past two weeks despite illness.

https://www.ciphr.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/data-post-Copy.pngHalf of workers said they were unhappy with their work-life balance, while more than two-thirds (64%) said they were losing sleep due to worry. A further two-thirds (60%) reported increased symptoms of fatigue. Mental health was found to be poorer among younger workers, those who were new to homeworking, and those in less frequent contact with their line manager.

Although the majority (73%) of respondents to the IES’s survey said they have access to occupational health support, three-quarters (75%) said their employer had not carried out a health and safety risk assessment of their homeworking arrangements.



Around 40% of UK adults surveyed by the ONS said their work was being affected by the coronavirus, with this proportion rising to 47% among those aged 16 to 69 years old. The most significant concern was a decrease in hours, following by being asked to work from home.

The ONS also reported that 46% of adults in employment are working from home; this proportion rises to 49% among employed adults who have an underlying health condition.

Separate ONS data has shown that, among organisations that have continued trading since the lockdown began on 23 March 2020, an average of 21% of their workers have been furloughed. An average of 5% of workers have been off sick or self-isolating, with 70% of workers continuing to work as normal.

Homeworkers are feeling the strain of increased workloads, too; the IES’s survey found that a third (36%) of respondents feel under too much pressure at work, and nearly half (43%) say they don’t have enough time to get their work done.




More than one in five (23%) of UK adults surveyed by the ONS said their household finances were being affected by the coronavirus. Their main concern was a fall in income (73%); a third (32%) are using savings to cover living costs, and a fifth (22%) said they are struggling to pay bills. Separate analysis from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that disposable income earned by UK households (adjusted for tax and benefits) will be 17% lower in Q2 2020 than in Q1. This equates to a monthly fall in disposable income of £515 per household – caused by a mix of job losses, cuts to pay or hours, and being placed on furlough.


It’s not just ordinary workers who are feeling the pinch; the High Pay Centre reports that chief executives at 25 of the FTSE 100 companies have reduced their salaries and fees by 20%. A further 11 companies have cancelled bonuses and/or long-term incentive plans.