As living with the virus becomes ‘normalised’, many share a common dread for the future. Can leaders help?
A new study revealed that people remain worried about the long-term and uncertain impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even respondents from New Zealand and Taiwan, countries that are perceived as having been successful in controlling the virus, remain stressed out.
Singaporeans also reported record low scores on the well-being survey, despite the low number of COVID-19 cases and relatively relaxed restrictions in phase three.
Cigna’s study revealed their topmost concerns in the post-pandemic world. About half (48%) said uncertainty about the future has been their biggest cause of stress.
Another 45% said they don’t have a financial safety net if they lose their jobs or are unable to work.
New Zealanders and Taiwanese are similarly concerned about their financial well-being. More than half (55%) of New Zealanders and 64% of Taiwanese fear a negative impact on their financial situation.
Meanwhile, 43% of New Zealanders and 49% of Taiwanese have doubts about maintaining their standard of living.
On the upside, around a quarter (26%) of people are now confident that they can maintain their standard of living. More than half of respondents (54%) have slashed unnecessary spending, and 39% of people have made permanent changes to how they manage their finances.
“At the outset of the pandemic we saw well-being indicators improve as people focused on ‘making the best of it’,” said Jason Sadler, president, at Cigna International Markets.
“However, as the pandemic has become normalised and people sense light at the end of the tunnel, we see them looking at what the long-term impact will be, with real fears about their financial future emerging.”
Remote working isn’t for everyone
Additionally, while employees have voiced a preference for flexible working, many shared a less optimistic view of long-term remote arrangements.
The study found that about three in five professionals (61%) who are working from home felt a dip in their productivity in the later months of 2020.
This was especially true for employees based in Asia – Hong Kong 80%, Korea 67%, Mainland China 62% and Thailand 62%.
The long time spent away from workplaces has thus led to increased recognition of the advantages of an office environment:
- 46% cited more effective communication face-to-face
- 37% highlighted better team collaboration
- 33% said it allowed better time management
Regardless, 54% of global respondents would still prefer to work from home at least half the time.
Read more: Why remote work isn't for everyone
“The success of remote working has been a bright spot among the challenges we faced over the past year, but we’re seeing more people recognise that the physical workplace offers benefits which the virtual world cannot,” Sadler said.
“We’re entering a new phase in response to the pandemic, one where it will be important for organisations to support their workforce by offering tailored healthcare programs that cater for a wide variety of perceptions and experiences across the globe.
“They need to be sensitive to the fact that the experience of employees differs considerably between markets and they need to provide solutions that truly address that.”