Silver lining in lockdown? Europe sees work-life balance improve, while Asia sees unparalleled flexibility at work

  • 9 in 10 working Brits say they have become closer to their workmates in recent months
  • Two thirds of working Spaniards say they have maintained a good work-life balance
  • In China, three fourths say technology has helped streamline connecting with colleagues

MADRID – May 29, 2020: New research from global health service company Cigna has revealed the varied effects of the lockdown on work and people’s social-lives, and how these differ across countries, including insights on overall job satisfaction, work relationships and work-related stress.

Despite the many challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought in recent months, 90% of UK workers say they maintain good relationships with their co-workers, up from 86% in January, and 66% of Spanish workers say they uphold a good work-life balance, up from 62% in January.

Overall, people reported that working from home has improved their work life, despite more people working after-hours - now 59% in the UK, compared to 48% in January, for example - and more people being uncertain or even skeptical about their job stability - now 40% in Spain, compared to 36% in January. In China, 77% register increased flexibility in their working days, attributed to remote-working measures; in Spain that number rises to 80% and in Thailand 90%. Moreover, people across the globe feel they have gotten closer to their colleagues during the crisis. 64% agreed that working from home and using technologies to communicate has streamlined connections with their colleagues compared to only 9% of people that said it had not.

Nonetheless, the Cigna COVID-19 Global Impact Study confirms that stress remains a global health problem with overall high stress levels - despite hints at a decline. 82% of respondents currently report to be stressed, that is 5% less than at the start of the year. Brits and Spaniards report to be noticeably less stressed than at the beginning of the year, 68% of the former and 64% of the latter say they are stressed, down from 78% and 77%, respectively. The study also confirms that perceived causes of stress vary greatly in nature and prevalence, ranging from personal finance and work related developments, to health and relationship related reasons.

“No matter where, when and in what form it took place, the shift to remote working has been one of the most significant changes brought on by the COVID-19 lockdown”, said Arjan Toor, CEO, Cigna Europe. “There are some strong indications that, overall, working from home has contributed to improving work life, suggesting that working routines are likely to change permanently once lockdowns end. Whilst there is no doubt that the pandemic has brought significant stress and challenges to us all, it is encouraging to see confirmation of instances where people are more satisfied with their work well-being during these times.”

The demand for virtual health has grown rapidly across the globe since lockdown began. In the UK alone, over half (52%) say they are likely to choose virtual health appointments rather than face to face ones and 43% of Brits would choose virtual health in place of general health support, such as GP appointments. In China, Hong Kong and Thailand the desire for virtual health solutions, in place of face to face appointments, rises above 60%.

Toor continued: “Since January, the number of virtual health appointments attended by our customers has increased 6-fold and we believe this is a permanent shift.  We are investing in new, integrated health solutions to help people manage their health, both mind and body, and provide treatment when and where it is needed.”

Part of Cigna’s annual 360 Well-Being Survey, the COVID-19 Global Impact Study is the first in a new series of studies from Cigna to better understand the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s well-being. 

Cigna's 360 Well-Being Survey has tracked perceptions about health and well-being, including an index covering physical, family, social, financial and work well-being since 2014. This edition engaged 10,204 people across the United Kingdom, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the United States between January and April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.