This study led by Public Health Wales was supported by the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research.
The work we do can positively or negatively impact our health and quality of life. Being in good work that is stable, meaningful, and fairly compensated is known to be beneficial to health. Enabling all individuals to access good work that fulfils their needs will contribute to ensuring that everyone has equal access to healthy working lives.
The pandemic has disrupted the world of work, requiring individuals to adapt to new ways of working at a rapid pace. While these dramatic changes to the population’s employment-related experiences were welcomed by some (e.g. those enjoying greater flexibility through homeworking), they led to increased isolation or financial strain for others. This contrast in the work-related experiences of different individuals and population sub-groups could have a longstanding impact on the workforce’s priorities and intentions for future work. Shedding light on these priorities and intentions and exploring how they might have evolved during the pandemic could help shape future policies that support good, fair work, and in turn, good health.
This research used a sample of working adults in Wales to develop insights into the workforce’s priorities for future work and the employment changes they have considered making since the COVID-19 pandemic. Data was collected in a household survey across Wales between May to June 2020 and December 2020 to January 2021.
Findings from the study
- Work priorities remained largely stable throughout the pandemic. However, the desire to work close to home increased as the pandemic progressed.
- Those in poorer health prioritised flexibility and were more likely to consider retiring than their healthier counterparts.
- Those with limiting pre-existing health conditions were four times more likely to consider becoming self-employed.
- Those with low mental well-being also demonstrated an increased consideration of becoming self-employed.
- Over 20% of the total sample had considered retraining. Those with low mental well-being, younger individuals and those experiencing financial insecurity were more likely to consider doing so.
- Furloughed individuals were more likely to consider retraining, becoming self-employed, securing permanent employment, and compressing their working hours.
Most Welsh working-age adults want to work close to home, with this becoming increasingly true further into the pandemic.
Population subgroups that are prone to facing insecurity during their working lives (furloughed individuals, those experiencing financial insecurity, those in ill-health) were more likely to consider changing their employment conditions. The changes they considered may reflect a desire to increase the autonomy, flexibility and stability that their work offers.
This research recommends that action is required to ensure that work that is good for health is equally accessible for all.
Melda Lois Griffiths, Senior Public Health Research Officer at Public Health Wales and the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research said:
Most of us have had to adapt to new ways of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, and might have taken a step back to reflect on what we want and need from our work. Our findings suggest that people who experience employment or income-related insecurity or face additional barriers to obtaining and retaining work are more likely to consider changing their employment, with retraining or becoming self-employed being some of the options they considered. Providing targeted support that supports these groups in pursing these goals will contribute to enabling their access to better work that better fulfils their needs, and in turn, better supports their health. More generally, with 20% of the sample considering retraining, action must be taken to ensure that these workforce-level training needs can be met.
Read the complete preprint here – https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.31.22270163v1
The National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research is funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales.