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30 Jun 2022
by Dawn Lewis

The employee experience is dominated by wellbeing – key takeaways from this year’s Employee Wellbeing Congress

Earlier this week we were joined by delegates from across the reward, employee benefits and wellbeing industry at our annual Employee Wellbeing Congress. Here we round-up the key takeaways from the event.

We’re entering a new era of opportunity, where wellbeing is culture and will shape future business direction by creating work that is flexible, inclusive, connected, purposeful and sustainable. These fundamental ideas underpinned this year’s Employee Wellbeing Congress – driving home the message that wellbeing is at the heart of business transformation. 

In a day packed with insights, networking and learning, selecting a handful of key takeaways is tricky to say the least. But below are five insights that really gave me food for thought.

1. It’s less about wellbeing and more about care

Opening keynote speaker, Dr Eliza Filby began the day by outlining how different generations in the workplace are not only influencing the future of work but are fundamental to a cohesive and inclusive workplace culture.

She argued that age diversity is as important as gender and racial diversity in the workplace, and that ageism is a corrosive influence. In an ageing workforce retaining older workers is paramount for our economy to function. 

Yet to develop a wellbeing strategy that caters for Gen Z employees, whose approach to work is significantly different to baby boomers, as well as Gen X and millennials, she believes that the focus needs to shift from wellbeing to care in three ways:

  1. Parental care: making paternity leave mandatory to help bring greater equality, and more support with childcare costs (particularly in the UK where the costs are the highest in Europe).
  2. Elder care: employers need to ensure they have policies (for both women and men) to support this as it is a growing issue, especially for Gen X who may have teenage children and ageing parents.
  3. Self-care: ensuring that technology does not cause burnout and that wellbeing strategies support the individual.

2. Work is catching up with trends in society and needs to reflect people’s experiences out of work 

The influence that societal shifts are having in the workplace are significant. And it means that employers need to rethink how to deliver high performance in this context. 

Deborah Frost, chief executive at Personal Group, argued that wellbeing and performance should be linked as you can only achieve high performance if you are well and operating in a supportive and inclusive environment. 

Often high performance is cyclical, with periods of high intensity work followed by slower periods, and this is needed in order to maintain wellbeing. While ensuring holistic wellbeing support is in place is also key. 

3. Product and service innovations are continuing to drive forward wellbeing strategies

With more 60 sponsors taking part in the exhibition, there were some exciting new product innovations on display from advances in neurotechnology, which is getting us to rethink how we should be listening to our employees, through to new ways of approaching financial wellbeing in the workplace. 

Yet it isn’t just about products, new services and approaches to wellbeing are ensuring that suppliers are keeping pace with the changing world of work, and in particular how hybrid working is influencing development.

4. ESG is about the lens through which you view benefits, not the end product

Understanding how employee benefits and wellbeing strategies are related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) can be difficult. However, ultimately it comes down to the lens through which you view these elements.

Mike Lewars, head of sales, health and benefits GB, and Sarah McDonough, employee experience leader, UK & Ireland, both from Willis Towers Watson, described the importance of the ‘S’ in ESG, which covers a number of areas from talent management through to health, wellbeing and diversity and inclusion.

And there are several spheres of influence on this from regulations which are driving fair pay, through to employee expectations, consumer driven requirements and investors who want to see businesses acting in a sustainable way.

Yet, achieving a wellbeing strategy to addresses the ‘S’ in ESG is not necessarily about products. More often it is about the lens through which you view your benefits and policies to ensure they meet ESG requirements.

5.    We need to be vigilant in the way we move forward with hybrid working

We ended the day by putting hybrid working under the microscope. Hybrid working is often billed as the best of both worlds for employees, and although some employers have found a successful way to operate, many employers are still struggling with how best to provide a hybrid workplace.

Camilla Cavendish, journalist and author, set the scene by highlighting the potential problems with hybrid working from how you measure productivity, the need to set boundaries, how to ensure fairness among those at home or in the workplace, and questioned where working from home is actually good for your wellbeing? 

These questions led to some fantastic roundtable conversations among delegates who all offered insights into how hybrid working is operating in their organisation and how they are overcoming some of the issues raised by Cavendish. And although many had found a way to implement hybrid working, there are still issues to resolve. 

As Cavendish concluded, we need to be vigilant in the way we move forward with hybrid working, otherwise we optimise for no one.

If you missed out on this year’s Employee Wellbeing Congress you can catch up with the sessions on our On Demand channel, where the recording will be available from next week. 

And finally, REBA also launched its 2022 Employee Wellbeing Research at the Congress, together with AXA Health. Download your digital copy.