Findings from the 2020 Mental Wellbeing in Research Survey show new improvements in workplace attitudes towards mental health and highlight the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Insight agency Opinium and MRS (Market Research Society), which supported the survey, called on industry leaders to positively engage with employees about the future of the workplace as the survey results were released today.

The findings build on the 2019 survey, which was the first of its kind in the market research sector, and will be launched and discussed during a webinar with Sophie Holland, senior research executive at Opinium and HR consultant Stuart McNicholas on Wednesday 26 August.

Signs of progress

The research indicates that people are growing more comfortable speaking about their mental wellbeing with their colleagues. In the past year, 57% of survey participants had told someone at work about a mental health struggle, compared with 36% in 2019. In those instances when people had shared how they were feeling, three quarters of them reported a positive experience and said their colleagues were understanding and supportive.

Last year, 40% of those who had struggled with their mental health said they didn’t take time off because they felt it wasn’t a valid reason to do so.  The level of people feeling that way has fallen to 28% this year.

Impact of Covid-19

Despite the ongoing global health crisis, mental wellbeing scores have remained stable compared with the findings in 2019 – as measured by the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale.*

Overall, the survey points to both positive and negatives effects from people working at home and those working in the research sector are divided over the impact of lockdown on their mental health, with 37% saying it has improved their wellbeing and 33% the opposite.   

It has been a good experience for some with 62% of respondents saying that not having to commute has improved their mental health.  59% of those surveyed say it has made them feel more relaxed.

However, nearly a third of survey participants reported finding it harder to keep in contact with colleagues and almost half have struggled to find balance and draw a line between work and rest.

Despite these concerns, the industry overwhelmingly supports a move away from an office-only based work culture, with 96% of people wanting to work from home to some extent in the future.

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of MRS, comments: “I’m delighted that our second wellbeing report has shown positive movements within our sector and that there are signs we are becoming more proactive, understanding and supportive when it comes to mental health. 

“As we return to work, leaders must seize opportunities to learn from these months of lockdown, listen to their teams and reflect their positive and negative experiences.  In the research sector, the view is overwhelmingly in favour of some degree of flexible working in the future, but there are also significant aspects and structures of office life that practitioners have been missing.  

“Blending the two – finding new ways to engender workplace culture, serendipity and creativity, while retaining the benefits of fewer stressful commutes and the greater childcare flexibility that working from home provides – will be vital in supporting the mental wellbeing of workfaces in the future.”

James Endersby, CEO of Opinium, comments: “It’s a pivotal moment for both our industry and society as a whole. Covid-19 has impacted not only the way we live, but our expectations of, and priorities for, the future. Our response to the challenges posed by the crisis, to the pressures and concerns they place upon both the mental and physical wellbeing of our colleagues and friends, will continue to have widespread and long-lasting repercussions.  While our report highlights some of those struggles, it also highlights the opportunities to change. To do more.  To make a difference to the lives of those of whom we work so closely and for whom we care so much.” 

MRS has now launched the MRS FLEX Forum – a specialist group of industry professionals who are passionate about working from home.  The group provides expert guidance and advice on how to create a happy and productive workforce through blended working.   

*Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) © University of Warwick, NHS Health Scotland and University of

Edinburgh, 2007, all rights reserved

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