Shift in mindset: Working Filipinos today less anxious compared to start of pandemic

A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic and months into the rollout of the vaccines to counter the diseases, more working Filipinos hav...

A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic and months into the rollout of the vaccines to counter the diseases, more working Filipinos have become less anxious of going out to attend to their necessities. 

Respondents of the 2021 PhilCare Wellness Index: The Philippine Roadmap to the Next Normal say they are more comfortable to go to the hospital now compared to the start of the pandemic, with a mean score of 3.05 (“neither”) from a score of 3.93 (“disagree”) in the 2020 PhilCare CQ Wellness Index

For this year’s study, a total of 1,500 respondents nationwide were asked to rate themselves from a five-point scale. With regard to degrees of agreement, scores ranging from 1-1.80 represented “strongly agree,” 1.81-2.60 as “agree,” 2.61-3.40 as “neither,” 3.41-4.20 as “disagree,” and 4.21-5 as “strongly disagree.” Meanwhile, a total of 505 working Filipinos were interviewed for the 2020 PhilCare CQ Wellness Index.

Interestingly, workers have also become more comfortable in going to the supermarket, with the score jumping from 2.85 (“neither”) to 2.46 (“agree”). While working Filipinos still “strongly agree” about washing hands properly, with a score of 1.43, this significantly lower than the 1.15 score for the same behavior last year. The same goes for disinfecting items bought outside before bringing them into the house, which also declined from 1.49 to 1.67.

“With the study, we get a better picture of how Filipino workers have adjusted after more than a year into the pandemic and how going through the new normal affects their health and wellness,” said Dr. Fernando Paragas, lead researcher of the 2021 PhilCare Wellness Index and a professor at the College of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The Philippine Roadmap To The Next Normal is the fourth PhilCare Wellness Index national survey since it was first done in 2014. This year’s study was conducted via a nationwide  telephone survey from September 4-20, 2021.

“We found it very important to conduct this very relevant study at a time when people are raring to return to their workplaces while conducting them in a safe manner since the virus. At the end of the day, we want to help the economy and our fellow Filipinos move past our current situation into a healthier and safer next normal,” said Dr. Enrique Ona, Chairman of the 2021 PhilCare Wellness Index and former Health Secretary. PhilCare President and CEO Jaeger L. Tanco said the study was undertaken to determine the state of health and wellness of employed Filipino workers who are at the center of concerted efforts to reopen the economy and reinvigorate business and industry.

“People obviously play a very key role in the effort of businesses - and the country in general - to recover from the effects of the pandemic. This study was developed and implemented with the goal of finding out how prepared employees are as they navigate the transition between the COVID-19 new normal and the prospective next normal,” he said. “Understanding the employees gives a very clear guide on how we can all get back on our feet,” he added.

The respondents were randomly selected from Metro Manila and over 60 provinces across the country, who are currently employed mostly in the services sector (81.9%), followed by those in the industrial (16%) and agricultural sectors (2.1%). 

Demographic representation

Services and sales workers comprised the biggest group of respondents (45.9%), followed by technicians and associate professionals (15.8%), and professionals (14.7%). Almost two-thirds of respondents (64.5%) worked for the private sector, while another 10.4% worked for the government. The rest worked as either employer in their own family-operated farm or business (7.9%), were self-employed without any paid employee (7.5%), worked for a private household (6.6%), worked with pay in their own family-operated farm or business (2.1%), or worked with pay in the same business set-up (1%).

COVID-19 and vaccination

Surprisingly, only 7.6% of respondents said they do not want to be vaccinated. In addition, half (49.1%) have not been vaccinated, with 34.7% expressing willingness to get a shot and 14.4% having a vaccination schedule already at the time the survey was done. A quarter of respondents (26.2%) have been fully-vaccinated, while one in five (17.1%) have gotten their first of two shots.

Four out of five respondents (82%) are confident with the COVID-19 vaccinations, having a composite score of 1.93 (“agree”). They trust the vaccines’ efficacy (1.83) and safety (1.85). Filipino workers also trust the health services that administer the vaccines (1.92), that the vaccines can end the pandemic (1.92), and the policymakers that decide on the vaccination program’s rollout (2.13).

Many Filipino workers also “strongly agree” about their right to get vaccinated (1.66), that COVID-19 is a serious risk to their health (1.69), seeking information on the vaccines (1.75), and that getting vaccinated is a way to protect others against the disease (1.77). Almost half (46.6%) of respondents said they personally knew someone who had COVID-19. In addition, over a third (36.6%) said they personally knew of someone who died from the disease.

Healthcare as among most valued in workplace

Compared to pre-pandemic days, Filipino workers now see healthcare as among the top three things they value in their workplace, alongside good salary and financial stability of the company.

Having a healthcare program in the office ranks third with a score of 1.46, with salary as first (1.43) and financial stability of employer (1.45). Healthcare even ranks higher than the usual worker values, such as appreciation among peers, 
good relationship with colleagues, work-home balance, having a good boss, career growth, and skills training. With regard to change in importance, scores ranging from 1-1.80 represented “much more important,” 1.81-2.60 as “more important,” 2.61-3.40 as “the same,” 3.41-4.20 as “less important,” and 4.21-5 as “much less important.”

In terms of percentages, around six out of ten respondents (56.9%) say that having a healthcare program in the office is “much more important” now than before the pandemic. This ranks fourth compared to those who said the same for salary (62%), financial stability of their employer (58.1%), and appreciation for their work (57.4%).

“The pandemic brought us to our senses in many ways, but in the end, it’s all about going back to basics -- taking care of the human person’s basic needs, including health. This is why I believe that employers should view spending for healthcare as an investment rather than an expense. After all, having good health is a basic right,” said Dr. Ona.

“As for workers, they should understand that achieving good health in the workplace is a partnership with their respective employers. It is, in fact, a personal responsibility, which means they still must practice proper nutrition, exercise, and avoid vices as much as possible,” he added.

Health and wellness

Overall, even with the threat of COVID-19, respondents said they perceive their overall state of health and wellness during the pandemic was “very good” with a score of 1.57 (score of one, being the highest), which was surprising because in 2019, prior to the pandemic, respondents rated their wellness as “good” with a score of 1.82.

Among the factors of wellness that saw biggest jumps in score are sense of satisfaction (“All things considered, I am satisfied with my life”) which rose from a score of 3.56 in 2019 to 1.76; self-rated health (“Overall I am in good health”) from 3.07 to 1.55, and sense of respect (“People respect me”) from 2.76 to 1.52.

Work set-up

Half (49.9%) of all respondents said they worked entirely in their respective work sites, while two-fifths (36.2%) work both at home and on-site. The rest (13.9%) work entirely at home. But given a choice of their preferred work arrangements, roughly half (48.7%) are willing to take on the hybrid work set-up in the next six months. Around a third (35%) would continue going to their respective places of work, while the rest (16.3%) would work entirely in their homes.

Respondents agreed that their workplace was adapting well to the pandemic, especially in the following terms: having a clear strategy to respond to the economic impact of the pandemic (87.2%); having a good system in place to ensure their safety as employees during the pandemic (86.7%); and having a program for promoting their health and wellness as employees (85.3%).

However, despite the high marks given for the pandemic preparedness in the workplace, respondents “strongly agree” they are stressed at the thought of being exposed to COVID-19 (1.73) and taking care of personal and family needs while working (1.78).

Takeaway for businesses

"For this year’s study, we wanted to bring attention to our workers and their health and well-being. Our employees are the lifeblood of our companies, which power the economy. Simply said, taking care of our workforce is also taking care of our economy,” said PhilCare Chairman Monico V. Jacob.

“In our desire to become a more responsible HMO amid this continuing health crisis, we intend to launch new programs and services that would enable employers to address the needs of their employees to keep their enterprises going. In fact, we have already launched services catering to mental health concerns since many of these came out during the pandemic,” Tanco said.

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