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23 Apr 2021
by Pippa Andrews

Make an impact: three ways to support your remote workforce with their health

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were already facing a health crisis with depression and obesity on the up, and people eating less healthily.

 

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With people’s working lives playing a key role in their health, organisations have the opportunity to make a big impact.

For businesses, the stakes are high. Not only can poor health cause problems in employees’ personal lives but it can also impact the bottom line, especially for SMEs, where there’s not much room for a drop in one person’s productivity. The pandemic has served to intensify some of the pre-existing challenges, placing a greater strain on our physical and mental health, so it’s no surprise that workplace wellness has become a top priority for many organisations.

According to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, 82% of employees make unhealthy choices (such as not exercising or eating a poor diet) and 45% are making two or more unhealthy choices. Some know what they need to do to be healthier but don’t, and for others, a lack of knowledge acts as a barrier. But ultimately, our choices impact health and wellbeing. These choices all impact on key areas that determine our health, like sleep, Body Mass Index (BMI), musculoskeletal pain, mental health and chronic conditions.

1. Find out what your employees’ health risks are

Productivity is important to your bottom line, and Britain’s Healthiest Workplace findings show it’s being negatively impacted by health-related absenteeism and presenteeism. In 2019, an average of 38 days of productive time was lost per employee per year, but this has worsened over time. Between the 2015 and 2019 surveys, it increased by 57%. 

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, healthy lifestyle is more important than ever, as existing challenges have been magnified. According to LinkedIn data, anxiety, depression and general wellbeing have all deteriorated and signs of burnout increased by 33%.

It’s also important to understand that everyone is experiencing the pandemic in their own way and some demographics are being disproportionately affected. Our data for example, shows that those in younger age groups have been the worst impacted by the pandemic in terms of finance, work and wellbeing, something that is well-reported by the media. Not only that, but in line with published research, our findings show that people’s lifestyle factors (age, BMI, underlying health conditions and more) can impact their chances of hospitalisation from Covid, as well as the body’s ability to fight the virus.

If we take males aged 40-49 as an example, our Covid cash claim analysis (2020) found that those with high levels of physical activity saw a 27% lower hospitalisation rate from Covid than those with low physical activity levels.  

It’s harder than ever to know the health and wellbeing of your employees, especially if they’re working remotely. But numbers don’t lie, so getting a view of the data and understanding the key areas of concern among your workforce is the first step to creating an effective wellbeing strategy. Vitality have used Workplace Wellness surveys to achieve this, which help to assess people’s health risks and general attitudes to things like remote working and returning to the office.

2. Choose activities that will make a difference

The right wellbeing programme can help you give your employees real benefits and protection, especially in light of the current situation. Once you’ve got a view of the landscape, you can start tailoring your interventions. There’s no one-size fits all approach but it’s important to note that even small changes can have a huge impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and improve their performance at work.

Different things will work for different people. The more personalisation there is, the better – so you can meet people’s individual needs and target those at greatest risk.

Engaging your workforce can be tricky, but your best chance of success is to choose initiatives that appeal to a broad range of interests – whether that’s mindfulness sessions, online workout classes, book clubs, virtual wellness seminars around healthy eating and other healthy habits. These are all things we’ve utilised at Vitality to engage our people while working apart.

We’ve also seen success by mobilising advocates and champions to spread awareness – people are always more likely to respond to others they feel they can relate to. Challenges are another useful incentive, helping to foster a sense of community. Finally, digital health and support services are a good tool to introduce, like online GP apps for quick access to primary care when it’s needed.

3. Get your leaders involved

The characteristics of a healthy business are all in the culture and leadership. But while focusing on helping others to achieve better outcomes, leaders can often neglect their own wellbeing. Providing additional support for line managers and heads of department to ensure they’re looking after themselves will help to mitigate this and make sure they can lead by example.

The right set of initiatives can influence long-term behaviour change and improve engagement significantly. We’ve seen a clear difference between businesses that perform well with health and wellbeing and those who don’t, with Britain’s Healthiest Workplace data showing good performers see up to 20 more productive days than those performing less well.

The author is Pippa Andrews, director corporate business at Vitality.

This article is provided by Vitality.

In partnership with Vitality

Vitality Health is award-winning health insurance that helps your clients live a healthier lifestyle every day

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