The must-have employment benefits in a post-COVID-19 society
Lockdown has impacted us all in several ways. For many, it has meant juggling an already busy life in closer quarters than ever before – our homes became offices, schools and leisure spaces overnight. With our latest data showing that we’re more at risk of anxiety and stress than pre-lockdown, it’s so much more important for businesses to focus on wellbeing at work (wherever that may be). According to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, healthier employees are happier, more engaged and therefore more productive, a key component to both business resilience and business success.
Focusing on the three components of wellbeing, now’s a good opportunity to review your benefits and ways of working to ensure they’re fit for purpose, resilient to societal changes, support your employees where they need it, and help maintain engagement levels – especially in a post-COVID-19 environment.
Physical activity – support getting active
When gyms and shared exercise spaces were forced to close at the beginning of lockdown, it undoubtedly affected our activity levels. While some people were able to find new ways to keep fit, a poll of 2,000 adults carried out roughly two months into lockdown by Yorkshire Cancer Research showed that exercise among adults had dropped by 25%.
Being such an important factor in our overall wellbeing, there’s huge benefit to encouraging exercise among your employee population – and it’s something that can be built into your range of benefits. The likes of discounted gym and fitness class memberships are useful as things slowly start to reopen, but while people still spend more time at home, and if lockdown were to return, providing access to fitness apps and online classes will prove invaluable.
At Vitality, incentivising healthy behaviour is at the core of our model. Our members, and our own staff, are encouraged to track their activity (using a device that measures heart-rate, such as a fitness watch) and can earn rewards for hitting goals.
Strategies and benefits that actively encourage community groups for shared interests around health and activity can also foster strong connections between employees. As well as boosting motivation, they can have an overall positive impact on morale, which can only be good for business.
Mental wellbeing – support good mental health
Stress and anxiety are among the most common mental health complaints nowadays and work is a big contributing factor. Over half of those surveyed in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2019 reported feeling some element of work-related stress, which can lead to both absenteeism and presenteeism. There are a number of ways employers can champion mental health.
First, supporting work-life balance, through flexible and remote-working policies (something that’s likely to be expected in a post-COVID-19 environment) will allow your workforce to feel more in control of their time and better able to manage their responsibilities. It’s an easy win. Then, encouraging a culture of openness around mental health, through policies, workplace initiatives and education will help to remove some of the still-existing stigma. Finally, an Employee Assistance Programme is an effective way to provide direct support to your employees and can be accessed from anywhere, making it ideal for a remote-working set-up. They can offer everything from financial advice to counselling and are entirely confidential, so your employees can get the help they need without fear of reprisal.
Their health – make it easy to understand their health and access treatment
Exercise and mental health care both contribute to good physical health and form part of a progressive and effective ‘prevention rather than cure’ strategy. But when there is a problem, it’s a good idea to have the right provision in place. The good thing about a comprehensive business healthcare plan is that it can offer your employees fast access to primary care through GP services. These can be offered through virtual GP services, which NHS figures show have seen a sharp increase in use since the start of the pandemic. With swift onward referral and a quality private care pathway should they need it, health cover can help to get your employees back and fighting fit sooner rather than later.
The pandemic has brought health to the forefront of people’s minds, so the ability to measure health in a meaningful way is of the utmost importance to the individual and the employer. By making it easy to access and understand their own health data and risks, you can encourage employees to make positive changes. As an employer, knowing the health risks of your population allows you to target your interventions to make them more effective and welcome to those who need them most.
The author is Pippa Andrews, director corporate, VitalityHealth.
This article is provided by VitalityHealth.
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