NEWS7 September 2021

Wellbeing struggles persist among UK researchers

Covid-19 Healthcare News Trends UK Wellbeing

UK – Over four-fifths of researchers have experienced poor mental health during the past year, but three-quarters feel their employers have handled the pandemic well, according to the latest Mental Wellbeing in Research survey by Opinium and the Market Research Society.

woman typing on a laptop balanced on her lap

The annual research found that 87% of researchers had experienced poor mental health over the past year, up from 83% in the 2020 survey.

Additionally, only 18% of those who reported experiencing poor mental health said they had taken time off work to rest.

Opinium’s workplace mental wellbeing audit was distributed to the UK research community using MRS networks, reaching 772 UK researchers during June and July 2021. This is the third year the research has been conducted.

Having too much to do at work remained the top source of stress for participants, while almost a quarter ( 24%) of the sector reported finding their job stressful.

However, the majority of respondents felt that organisations had handled the pandemic well: more than three-quarters ( 76%) of those surveyed said that they approve of their employer’s actions over the past 18 months, and this increased to 83% for those working client-side.

The survey findings suggest there have been improvements in the availability of mental wellbeing support and resources. Almost half of respondents ( 46%) reported having access to a mental health first aider – an increase of a third compared with last year’s survey results – and 41% said they have access to an employee assistance programme.

Additionally, 45% of survey respondents said they would like to see their employers introducing mental health days or ‘duvet days’.

With organisations evaluating their approach to office-based working as pandemic restrictions ease, only 4% of industry participants surveyed said they wanted to return to the office full-time, with 96% stating they wished to continue working from home to some extent after the pandemic.

Having a crowded commute was cited as the biggest concern over returning to office-based working (for 54% of participants), while 52% were worried about losing free time they had gained from working at home.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS, said: “It is a testament to the strength of the research sector that, in general, those involved in it support their employers’ actions. The past 18 months have seen an added weight placed on our sector as a whole, as businesses, government bodies and other organisations looked for insight and guidance through this period of uncertainty.

“To rise to this challenge while maintaining employees’ support is no mean feat, though there is still work to be done. Organisations and departments must not neglect the mental health of their professionals – the real assets of research – and I hope to see continued improvement in the availability of wellbeing support.”

Sophie Holland, research manager and wellbeing lead at Opinium, said: “It’s encouraging to see improvements in our sector in terms of openness around mental health and the introduction of initiatives to support employee wellbeing. But we cannot ignore that unmanageable workload and burnout remain fundamental issues in our sector which is on the rise versus previous years. It is vital that senior leaders act on these insights and address these issues so that we can see tangible improvements in employee wellbeing.” 

The results and implications of the research will be discussed at a webinar on Thursday 9th September.


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