Cost of living crisis is stressing out Irish workers

Business owners are increasingly concerned for employees’ mental health.

The cost of living crisis is infiltrating the Irish workplace with 85% of employees admitting to have experienced anxiety in the past six months over money worries.

Employers are admitting that financial worries among their staff are impacting the employment market with some using their money worries as an excuse to leave a job, while others are feeling too scared to move.

“The latest wave of research has shown an overall decline in mental health over the past six months, coinciding with the arrival of the cost-of-living crisis”

Almost equal numbers of people are looking to either stay in their current role for job security reasons (59%) or to change jobs for a higher salary (56%). The findings come from the latest wave of Laya healthcare’s Workplace Wellbeing Index – one of the largest workplace wellbeing surveys of its kind in Ireland, now in its third year.

Mental health concerns

In the survey results, a third (35%) of employees reported feeling concerned or anxious either frequently or all the time, representing a significant increase since the last wave of research conducted six months ago where this figure was 24%.

The timing of the 11% jump is in line with the current cost of living crisis. The impact of this is further borne out by 29% of employees who self-reported their mental health as poor in the last six months with 23% of this subset of employees having had suicidal thoughts.

The research demonstrated that the main causes of stress and anxiety for employees is caused by economic factors outside the workplace including:

  • Rise in cost of living (71%)
  • Money worries (57%)
  • Uncertainty about the future (47%)
  • Ireland’s economy (46%)

Causes of stress and anxiety within the workplace ranked much lower with job satisfaction at 26% and concerns about career prospects at 25%. Interestingly people are now effectively ranking work life balance on a par with salary at 61% and 60% respectively.

“Despite emerging out of a once-in-a-generation disruption to working patterns and expectations, four in 10 companies don’t have a health and wellbeing strategy, and this falls to 38% for mental health strategy,” said Sinead Proos, head of Health & Wellbeing at Laya Healthcare.

“Our research shows a clear and sustained decline in employee mental health and employers need to take urgent action to provide supports tailored to their needs. New for 2022 is the need to introduce specific financial wellbeing supports to help retain and attract top talent. The role of the office is changing too, becoming less a place for task management and more a shared space to re-establish social connections that employees are clearly missing out on.”

The return to the office

Concerns for employee’s mental health has also increased significantly among HR leaders with 1 in 3 business owners and HR leaders (33%) reporting that they are very concerned about the mental health of employees, an increase of 18% compared with six months ago.

Employee anxieties were higher in female respondents (2 in 5) compared to their male counterparts (1 in 4) and in fact it was demonstrated throughout that younger female employees were more likely to have suffered from poor mental health in the past six months.

In the last six months, a significant number of employees have returned to their workplace, with mixed results. Some 60% of employees are now back in the workplace full time, with 1 in 4 employees choosing to work hybrid, and 15% choosing to work remotely full time.

Staff on average are working two to three days in the workplace with the rest from home and are more likely to have a choice of what days they work on site rather than being mandared by their company.

Hybrid workers are more likely to have had higher job satisfaction in the last six months, driven by better work life balance (63%), flexibility (56%) and less commuting (50%).

“The latest wave of research from the Laya healthcare Workplace Wellbeing Index has shown an overall decline in mental health over the past six months, coinciding with the arrival of the cost-of-living crisis,” said Prof John Gallagher, founder of Cognate Health and a specialist in Occupational Medicine.

“Our occupational health data validates this. So far this year, of a sample of 30,000 employees initially referred to our occupational health service, over half (52%) were mental health related with referrals for stress, anxiety, relationship issues and depression. This underpins the need for employers to introduce or reinforce their mental health supports offering employees a first port of call to seek help if they need it.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.