Despite the pandemic's negative impact on the job market, this was an increase of 6% from 2019 (21%).
Jonathan Richards, CEO and founder of Breathe, said the feeling of isolation in national lockdowns has meant employees are fearful of toxic work environments as they need more stability and support.
He told HR magazine: “It’s never been more important for businesses to invest in building a culture that can survive separation and offer support where it is sorely needed.
“Preventing a workplace from becoming a toxic environment is critical, not only for the wellbeing of your people but for their productivity and engagement too.”
The danger of a toxic workplace
Only half (51%) of employees said they were satisfied with their employer’s efforts in maintaining positive remote culture during the pandemic.
Once restrictions are lifted, Richards said employers could create a positive workplace culture by focusing on principles of trust and honesty.
“Implementing processes which ensure people have the confidence to speak about issues impacting them and the reassurance that they will be listened to is an important step in creating a great place to work,” he said.
The pandemic has made it more difficult to understand how people are really feeling at work.
Richards added: “A lack of visibility means that some may be suffering in silence, so regular check-ins, good communication and offers of support are ways HR teams can create a positive culture whilst working remotely.”
The report also found almost a quarter (24%) of SME employees said they are not afraid to pursue a different career in a different industry.
Richards said staff retention issues in-spite of the shrinking economy is surprising, but proves people won’t stand for mistreatment in any scenario and will leave a job that doesn’t support them.
“We urgently need to see cultural changes happen to remedy this. Much more needs to be done in keeping people safe, mentally and physically, if at least from a work perspective,” he added.
As lockdown eases, the report found almost half of SMEs (43%) admitted to a lack of COVID wellbeing measures in place, presenting a large risk to employee health and safety.
The Breathe Culture Report 2021 surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,001 UK adults, supplemented by 500 SME senior decision makers excluding sole traders (375) between the 18th and 30th December 2020.