Study: U.S. worker productivity, engagement suffering amid pandemic

U.S. adults are having trouble concentrating on work and it’s costing employers productivity and engagement, according to a Colonial Life survey conducted during the rising coronavirus pandemic.

The Colonial Life survey* of 1,200 U.S. adults in March found nearly 40% report “high” or “moderate” daily stress levels that distract them from their work.

Finances were listed as the top cause of stress by 21% of adults and work was named by an additional 20%. But the health of loved ones (17%) and personal health (13%) were not far behind. Family and home were also frequently listed as top stressors.

“Many of America’s workers lead stressful lives in the best of times, with responsibilities at work, with family and at home,” said Richard Shaffer, senior vice president of field and market development at Colonial Life. “It’s no wonder that we see high stress levels and concern about health and family and finances running high during such an uncertain period.”

And that stress is following Americans into the workplace.

Nearly one in four adults say they spend more than five hours of work time each week worrying. That equates to hundreds of millions of working hours and billions of dollars in lost productivity every week.

And workers know it. In the Colonial Life survey, 26% of adults say stress makes them less productive at the office and 15% say it makes them less engaged. Other adults say stress leads to absenteeism and has them looking for other jobs.

But employees also have ideas on how their employers can help. Not surprisingly, the top two ways bosses can help ease their employees’ stress is through additional salary (52%) and additional paid time off (40%). These ideas finished at the top of the list when Colonial Life asked the same question in 2019.

However, fewer adults named salary and vacation time in this year’s survey, opting instead for more flexible work schedules (38%), more flexible work locations (25%), wellness programs (23%), and additional voluntary benefits like life, disability and accident coverage (l7%).

“Keeping engagement high with a remote workforce can be challenging,” says Shaffer. “It’s more important than ever to use virtual tools and resources to keep workers knowledgeable about their benefits and ensure they and their families are protected should unexpected events arise.”

To recognize April as Stress Awareness Month and guide employers and employees during the coronavirus outbreak, Colonial Life is offering additional resources on working remotely, managing teams and balancing work, home and family, on its WorkLife site.

*Online research administered March 23-30, 2020 by Dynata on behalf of Colonial Life among 1,200 U.S. adults.