Just under two in five workers on furlough said they would see a boost in their mental health if they were to go back to the workplace.

New research by jobsite Indeed shows that returning to the workplace is important for certain groups of employees and their mental wellbeing.

Specifically, two-fifths of furloughed workers (38 per cent) felt that returning to the workplace would be beneficial for their mental health. The same number of furlough employees also stated that their mental health would be improved if they had greater clarity regarding their employment.

This comes in light of furloughed workers struggling marginally more with mental health than employees who are not furloughed. Over half (51 per cent) of full-time furloughed workers say their mental health is worse than it was during the first lockdown, along with almost three-fifths (57 per cent) of workers who are furloughed on a part-time basis.

However, it is clear that this is not an isolated experience. Although they fared slightly better, almost half of employees who are not furloughed reported a decline in their mental wellbeing since the first lockdown last year (44 per cent). Just 15 per cent of workers expressed that their mental health was better now in comparison to the same period in 2020.

Women in specific were more likely to report a decline in their mental health with half saying so (50 per cent). This align with data released by the ONS which showed women’s wellbeing was more negatively affected than men’s during the first year of the pandemic, with women more likely to be furloughed, spend more time on unpaid household work and childcare, and less time working from home.

In contrast, over a third (38 per cent) of men expressed feeling a decline in their mental health since the first lockdown.

However, with lockdown restrictions easing over the coming months, this has provided a sense of optimism for employees. As such, over two-fifths of staff (41 per cent) expect their mental health to improve in the next three to six months.

Bill Richards, UK managing director at global job site Indeed, stressed the importance of creating a supportive work culture to help employees during this time:

The most recent lockdown has taken its toll on many employees’ mental health, with 44 per cent saying they’re doing worse now than when restrictions came into force a year ago.

The good news is that many are also feeling optimistic that their mental health will soon improve, thanks to the easing of restrictions and the prospect of a return to the workplace. For furloughed workers, the prospect of getting back into the routine of work looks set to have an uplifting effect on their wellbeing. 

During the pandemic, flexible working has been highly valued by employees who have been able to work from home or adjust their working hours, and we know such flexibility can help to improve people’s mental health and boost productivity. 

It is therefore essential that as people return to the workplace, employers continue to communicate with the employees about mental health and build a culture where workers feel supported and are comfortable finding out if their company offers flexible working options which could help them. 


*This survey questioned 1,039 UK workers and 508 employers who have made changes to their company as a result of the pandemic. These groups were surveyed by YouGov on behalf of Indeed.