Why treating employees as individuals is good for business

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We live in a rapidly changing world with increasingly blurred boundaries between work and home. Our working hours and where and how we work are increasingly fluid. While some welcome flexibility, for others it creates unease and uncertainty. In turn, the two opposing forces - flexibility and uncertainty - lead to ambiguity.

In February 2020, Aviva spoke to 2,000 people in employment to look at the impact ambiguity is having on key areas of our working life. Then the global pandemic turned everything upside down. With millions of UK workers suddenly working from home, the lines between the two blurred further.

So, we repeated the research in August to understand the impact this unprecedented situation has had on the UK workforce and to help us develop solutions to address our customers’ changing needs.

What did we find?

Aviva believes we are living and working in an ‘Age of Ambiguity’. Trends which have been emerging in recent years have reached an inflection point:

· Working life and wellbeing in the new normal - 52% agree boundaries between work and home are becoming increasingly blurred, up from 40% in Feb. The ‘new normal’ is straining relationships between employers and employees, with employees becoming physically, and increasingly emotionally, remote.

· Combatting employee drift - 54% agree their employer has worked hard to create a sense of company togetherness. Yet efforts are having a limited impact; just 15% agree that their employer is trying really hard to understand what motivates them.

· A heightened awareness of the impact work has on physical and mental wellbeing - 43% describe their wellbeing as being less than good and 84% say that they would carry on working even if they felt unwell.

· Adapting by dropping into survival mode - in August, 25% felt they were unprepared financially for unexpected events. Heightened anxiety has led to employees working longer hours and taking fewer sick days, all the while becoming less fulfilled by work and life.

· Personality types experience ambiguity differently - 33% of responders fall in the most vulnerable category of “disorganised and stressed”.


So, what does this mean for employers?

Wellbeing is crucial

Two of the biggest issues facing employers are mental health issues and presenteeism. Declining satisfaction for our jobs and lives in general is impacting our mental health, as is the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic. When asked in August, 43% of employees ranked their mental health between ‘very bad’ and ‘fair’, compared to 38% in February.

The effects of the psychological contract

With employees working remotely, there’s a danger of feeling emotionally remote from their colleagues and their employer. This is challenging workers’ sense of purpose and their relationship with their employer has shifted, fuelled by less focus on job satisfaction.

Only 23% of employees agreed they felt loyal to their employer in August compared to 28% in February. Additionally, 74% are positive about the idea of moving jobs more frequently.

All of this creates ‘employee drift’, making it harder for employers to attract and retain the best and brightest in their workforce and capture and engage new talent.

There’s no one-size-fits all answer

Because we’re all different, there is no single answer to addressing these issues. In our report, we looked at personality types to identify the type of employees who are struggling the most working from home and need more support during this second lockdown. We created four persona categories and 33% of responders fall in the most vulnerable category, “disorganised and stressed”.

Employers who support their employees on a more tailored, individual level can help them improve their physical, financial and mental wellbeing. A response like this can only help increase the loyalty your workers feel to you, counteracting ‘employee drift’.

Read the report to find out more

Our Age of Ambiguity report offers many valuable insights into how employees are really feeling about working life today. It can help you consider your strategy, rethink your models and focus on putting your budget into the most effective ways to help your employees.

Download Aviva’s new Age of Ambiguity report now.

Dr Subashini M is associate medical director at Aviva UK Health and Protection.

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