Through a study of online search trends, we’ve found the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on UK employee wellbeing. With so much uncertainty over jobs, changes to working locations and disruption of day-to-day life, there’s little wonder this is the case – and it’s reflected in dramatic changes to the number of Google searches for wellbeing-related phrases.

Since the start of the first UK lockdown in March 2020, the number of people searching things online associated with staff wellbeing support has skyrocketed. This reflects the increasing focus by organisations on finding ways to improve staff health.

We’ve investigated how search volumes for a number of wellbeing-related searches have changed in the UK to see how search trends differ pre- and post-pandemic. The findings are positive as they prove these important issues are being considered by employers.

As the data shows, the search terms “introducing wellbeing at work” and “employee wellbeing platform” saw increases of 900% and 800% respectively in 2020 compared to 2019.

Search volume percentage increase in wellbeing terms 2019 vs 2020

This data clearly shows that employers across the country have recognised the need to take action to help staff morale. This is perhaps best seen in the 85% increase in searches for “workplace wellbeing initiatives”, which leapt from being Googled 140 times per month in 2019 to 260 last year.

Across the whole of 2020, that equates to an additional 1,440 employers researching workforce wellbeing initiatives which can only be a good thing.

The phrase “wellbeing platform” (see graph below) saw an even more dramatic change, with a massive search volume increase of 1,300% since the pandemic started.

Total wellbeing search volume before and during covidThese increases carry significance beyond the numbers, too. It shows that businesses are actively searching for help supporting their employees’ wellbeing and are willing to invest in their staff like never before.

However, the most remarkable surge in search volume was seen in the phrase “working from home tips”; a search term which shows how hard the pandemic has been on workers. Working from home is more difficult for some people than others and there are any number of reasons why the move from the office is stressful. For some, it’s a simple case of looking to organise their desk – but for others, it means receiving the appropriate support to keep their minds and body healthy.

Occupational health searches before and after covid

The phrase “Occupational health” now averages 22,000 searches per month, compared to 14,800 before COVID impacted the UK workforce. This is backed up by increases in searches for “staff wellbeing” and “employee wellbeing”, with each phrase receiving impressive boosts of 1,300 searches per month since the pandemic started.

 

It will come as no surprise to learn that the majority of search terms peaked in demand during the UK lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021. It’s in these moments that working environments have been affected tremendously and employees have been at their most stressed and vulnerable. And whereas it’s essential that businesses do all they can to care for their staff all year round, it’s particularly pertinent during times of great disruption and uncertainty.

Searching for the Cost of Staff Wellbeing

Another reason for investing in staff wellbeing is the cost of poor health on businesses throughout the UK. According to data taken by the Centre for Medical Health, wellbeing issues amongst a small team of 25 employees can cost your company an average of £32,500 per year.

And that number rises to £130,000 for businesses operating with 100 members of staff. Even more concerning is the numbers of employees who are suffering from severe mental health issues.

Data from the Mental Health Foundation tells us that within large businesses of around 1,000 employees, on average at least 200 have contemplated taking their life at some stage. And as Champion Health founder Harry acknowledges, these problems are all too common in the workplace.

There’s no doubt COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for employers to look after their staff’s physical and mental wellbeing. And fortunately, as the data tells us, companies are no longer willing to take risks with their staff’s health. It’s not only the right thing to do, there’s a business case for it: happy workers are more productive and a productive business is a better business.”

Written by Alex Bennett, Marketing Lead, Champion Health