Lockdown takes its toll

July 2020

Wellbeing has dropped dramatically among PQs, according to a
new survey from Hays. Karen Young explains all.

Wellbeing among UK workers has taken a hit during the Covid-19 crisis, as businesses and staff across industries grapple with extraordinary change and ongoing uncertainty.

PQs are no exception to this, as findings from the new Hays Wellbeing Matters report bring to light a deteriorating picture of wellbeing among part qualified accountants. With particular focus on work-life balance and mental health, here’s what this picture looks like and what employers of finance professionals can do to improve wellbeing all round.

Wellbeing takes nosedive

Since lockdown restrictions were enforced earlier this year and many PQs started working remotely, wellbeing has taken a tumble, according to findings in the report.

Almost twothirds (62%) of PQs rated their wellbeing positive before lockdown restrictions, which dropped to just 33% since the lockdown has been in place. Furthermore, those who rated their wellbeing as negative rose from 6% to 27%.

Clearly being under lockdown and having to work remotely is taking its toll on PQs. Accountancy is predominately traditionally an office, desk-based job, so shifting from this to remote working arrangement is a huge adjustment that many have had to make in an unexpectedly short amount of time.

There are many reasons why wellbeing has suffered during lockdown, but the most common answer given by PQs was a lack of social interaction (cited by 27%), followed by feelings of isolation and loneliness (13%). An increase in workload (11%) and boredom (10%) were also factors.

Work-life balance under the spotlight

Work-life balance is important to those in this profession; interestingly, it has increased in importance for more than two in five (43%) PQs since lockdown began. But despite this, over half (52%) rate their work-life balance between average and poor. While the recent passing of the tax year is a demanding time for some PQs and certainly won’t have eased any strained workloads, clearly work-life balance is an issue which needs addressing when it comes to wellbeing.

In tandem with this, mental health is also under the spotlight as an element of wellbeing which has been impacted by the current environment. Adequate mental health support from an employer has also grown in importance since lockdown (according to 46% of PQs).

As we were reminded in Mental Health Awareness Week in May, it’s vital that we comprehend how to maintain good mental health now more than ever, as it feeds so directly into overall wellbeing.

PQs look to employers for support

What role do employers play in the maintenance of wellbeing, work-life balance and mental health among PQs? What responsibility do they have and how can they best support professionals feeling the effects of lockdown?

Almost three-quarters (71%) of PQs say their employer has a responsibility to look after their wellbeing, yet over half (53%) state that their employer hasn’t provided any wellbeing support during the lockdown. This isn’t the case across the board, however – as of those who said their employer was providing support, close to a fifth (15%) said their employer is offering social activities, followed by counselling (12%) and health (such as an online doctor, also 12%).

These steps are encouraging and it’s positive that professionals are looking to their employers for support during this time. However, to improve wellbeing among PQs, employers could go to greater lengths by putting some of the following measures in place:

• Assess the impact lockdown has had on staff wellbeing through one-to-one interviews or short surveys.

• Schedule in more regular video communication with teams both for business updates and socialising.

• Be flexible with schedules and expectations.

• Offer wellbeing training and resources which are easily accessible by all.

The wellbeing of staff needs to be a top priority for all employers as the impact of the virus is felt on our personal and professional lives.

Although everyone’s experience and situation will be unique, it’s important that steps are taken by employers to support their staff no matter where they’re working and help them maintain wellbeing in what is a challenging time for us all.

• Karen Young, Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance.