UK COVID-19 research: our top September takeaways

The key stats and facts from our latest round of research about the pandemic and its impact on the British population.

By Jason Stockwell and Vicky Karran, PFR’s Data Insights team

When it comes to coronavirus, knowing facts from fables and finding the right sources of data is becoming more and more important. With this in mind, People for Research have been conducting a series of COVID-19 research surveys, which aim to highlight how people are feeling and the areas where people are doing well and need support at the moment.

You can find the most relevant historical data we have collected so far here:

We’re diving straight in with the help of our Data Insights team, so get your data scuba gear on!

👨‍💻 Working during the pandemic 👩‍💻

Here, we look at the effect that location has had on job satisfaction and what people want next from a workplace, job and company.

  • Working remotely
    People in the East and West Midlands are more likely to want to work from an office than work remotely compared with anywhere else in the country.
  • Workplaces responses
    People in London and the South West are more likely to work in places that accommodate flexible and remote working compared to elsewhere in the country.
  • Returning to work
    10.1% of people in Wales are not planning to ever return to working in a fixed environment and will stick to remote working.

Next up, we have some statistics that compare the gender’s working situations.

  • Workplace productivity
    Women are currently feeling less productive than men, with 30.7% of women feeling less productive compared with 26.0% of men.
  • Returning to the workplace
    Women are 13.7% more likely to want to work from an office than men. Also, women are 27.0% more likely to go back to working from a fixed location than men after the pandemic is over.
  • Overall job security
    Women feel their jobs are more secure at the moment than men, with 61.2% of women feeling like their job is secure in work compared to 57.0% of men.

The company size and communication from the company also play a big part in how people are feeling. Here are some of the highlights we learnt from this round of research:

  • Business size and furlough scheme
    Small businesses (with less than 50 employees) made the most of the furlough scheme, with 45.8% of staff in businesses of this size going on furlough at some stage.
  • Shift to remote working
    The biggest shift in remote working has come in large organisations, with 64.6% of people before the pandemic working in an office environment compared with 27.0% now.
  • Remote work preferences
    People in larger organisations prefer working remotely, with 57.4% of people in companies with 250–500 employees favouring this routine.
  • How often to return
    People in medium-sized businesses (50–250 employees) would prefer going into work 3–5 days a week, whereas people in larger businesses (500+ employees) want to go back only 1–2 days per week.
  • Are businesses accommodating?
    Larger businesses (500+ employees) are currently being the most accommodating when it comes to flexible working, given the complex situation in the UK.
  • Impact on small business
    Smaller businesses (with less than 50 employees) have registered more employees on furlough and decreases in revenue when compared to larger organisations, with one in every five people in small businesses taking salary reductions.
  • Job security
    People in larger organisations (250+ employees) are currently feeling more secure in work and are also currently enjoying work more.
  • Get back to it
    Businesses with under 250 employees have half of their workforce already back in a fixed environment.
  • Listen to business owners
    Business owners in the UK are most likely to believe the furlough scheme should be extended, with 46.4% thinking we should extend the scheme compared with 33.9% who think we should not.

👩‍👧 Working parents 👨‍👦‍👦

With schools closing last year, this is how parents responded to workplace changes.

  • Parental furlough
    Parents were 7.9% more likely to go on furlough than people who didn’t have children.
  • Flexible work for parents
    Parents are currently in businesses that are 14.9% less likely to accommodate flexible working.

Household income also impacts how people were treated on furlough and what people’s responses have been to their workplace, here are some of the results.

  • Furlough and income
    The people who are still on furlough tend to earn less than 20k, with 51.9% of people earning less than 20k being put on furlough at some point.
  • Income and remote work
    People at the lower end of the salary scale tend who have employers that are less willing to accommodate remote working, with 15.4% of people earning under 20k saying their employer will not allow them to work remotely.
  • Small businesses and income
    58.0% of people earning less than £20k are in smaller companies (less than 50 employees), compared with 31.1% of people who earn between 50k-75k.
  • Job security and income
    People with less household income currently feel a lot less secure about their jobs, with 28.8% of people who earn less than £20k feeling like their roles are not secure.
  • Income and happiness
    People who earn more money tend to enjoy work more, with 86.5% of people whose combined household income is above £150k saying they are happy in work compared with 61.1% of people whose household income is below £35k.
  • Income and continuing furlough
    The graph below shows a correlation between people’s responses to whether they want the furlough scheme to end and household income:

🎒 Back to school 🎒

The kids are back at school, and it’s been a hotly debated topic in PMQs, but how do people really feel about the government’s decision to encourage schools to reopen?

  • Location and taking children out of school
    People in the North East are more likely to take their children out of school if advised by the school, PTA, or council.

The split between mothers and fathers makes for interesting reading, here are some of the findings:

  • Keeping kids home
    Men are 30.5% more likely to keep their children home from school because of COVID-19 than women.
  • Mothers feel less safe
    21.3% of mothers feel less safe about the current school environment compared with 17.4% of fathers.
  • Faith in the school
    40.9% of mothers are confident in their school’s handing of the pandemic, compared to 34.5% of fathers.

The rest of the population:

  • About the government’s response
    27.9% of retired people think the government have handled the schools returning well, compared with just 8.0% of higher education students.
  • Keeping kids home
    Key workers and business owners are less likely to keep their children home from school because of COVID-19 than other groups.
  • Do parents want this?
    Parents are 35.8% more likely to feel positive about students returning to school than people that do not have children
  • Household income and comfort
    People with combined household incomes of less than £50k are less likely to feel positive about students returning to school compared with people whose combined household incomes are over £50k, with 61.0% of households whose incomes are over £100k saying they feel positive about the schools returning.
  • Government’s handling
    The higher your household income, the more likely you are to be impressed with the government’s handling of schools returning.
  • Masks in school
    The higher the combined household income, the less likely parents are to make their children wear masks in school, while commuting or between lessons.

🍝 Eating out to help out 🍝

The scheme launched in August was designed to help support restaurants that had closed throughout the summer due to the pandemic. Here’s how people responded to it and what the outcomes were.

  • Pub visits
    People in Yorkshire, the South East and the South West have visited a pub more in the last three months than the rest of the country. Also, men are 17.7% more likely than women to have visited a pub in the last three months.
  • Track and Trace system
    Only 42.4% of retired people have signed in to a pub or restaurant with the Track & Trace app, compared to 61.8% of key workers. This could be because the technology available isn’t as accessible for elderly people.
  • More disposable income = more eating out
    People with combined household incomes of over £35k were more likely to use the Eat Out to Help Out scheme were 20.7% more likely to use the scheme than people with incomes of below £35k.

🌿 Lifestyle and happiness 🌿

With huge changes in lifestyle during the pandemic, and further changes likely to come in the near future, here are some of the correlations in the data between areas of the UK.

  • Household income
    People in London and the South East have seen the biggest decrease in household income, with 45.6% and 44.9% of people saying their income has slowed down in the last six months.
  • The hardest hit regions
    Individuals in the North East have been hit by this, with the 20.7% of people in the region claiming additional support from the government, 32.8% asking for help from a family member and 8.6% visiting a food bank.
  • How people are feeling
    People in the North East are also more likely to be anxious, depressed and experience stress at the moment.

How are women and men different in their approaches to lifestyles during the pandemic?

  • Savings
    32.0% of women are saving more than 10% of their household income, compared with 39.3% of men.
  • Optimism
    Men are feeling more optimistic about finances staying the same of increasing in the next six months, with 62.3% of men saying their financial situation will stay the same or improve compared to 55.2% of women.
  • Support
    Women are 17.6% more likely to ask a family member for help and support than men. Men are 17.5% more likely to take out extra loans or credit.
  • Anxiety
    Women are 34.6% more likely to have had anxiety and panic attacks in the last six months.

How is the self-employed population dealing with the pandemic?

  • Household income decreases
    70.5% of self-employed people have had their household income decrease in the last six months.
  • Getting support
    One in five self-employed people have had to ask for help from a family member, with two in every five claiming additional support from the government.
  • Keeping furlough
    People in smaller businesses are keen to keep the furlough scheme, people in larger businesses want people to get back to a working environment.
  • Mental health among workers
    Self-employed people are more likely to experience anger, depression, self-esteem issues and loneliness due to COVID-19, with one in two self-employed professionals having panic attacks and anxiety.
  • Lifestyle changes
    Self-employed people are considering big changes in their life due to the pandemic. Some are looking at leaving the UK or moving to a more rural area inside the country, and one in two are considering changing career path.

How are people’s different life stages impacting their opinions and feelings?

  • Government’s plan
    Retired people are the most confident in the government’s economic plan, with 23.0% of retired people feeling confident about this.
  • Feeling negative
    Naturally, people who are unemployed are feeling a lot more negative than they were six months ago. One in two people who are currently unemployed have reported feeling depressed or having depression.
  • Parents and savings
    Parents are 28.1% less likely to be saving anything at the moment, or to be saving up to 10% of their income. 37.0% of non-parents are saving more than 10% of their income.
  • Impact on mental health
    Individuals with higher household incomes are more likely to think the last six months have had a positive impact on their mental health, compared with people with incomes under £20k who are more likely to feel their household incomes have got a lot worse.

🦠 The virus and the cure 🦠

This section in the survey looked at the virus itself and how people feel about a vaccine being developed so quickly.

  • More connections in the capital
    People in London are more likely to know friends, family or colleagues that have had COVID-19 than any other areas of the country.
  • Do we want a vaccine?
    Men feel more positive than women about a vaccine being developed so quickly, with 45.8% of men feeling positive about the vaccine and 32.2% of women feeling negative about the quick development of a vaccine.
  • How key workers feel
    36.6% of key workers feel negative about a vaccine being developed so quickly. On the flipside, 48.9% of retired individuals want a vaccine as soon as possible.

We are working on the next round of our survey, which will be going out mid-October. Are there any questions you would like to ask the British population? Share them in the comments or email and we’ll try to include them in the survey.

All data collected within this independent research can be found here:

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