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HOW COVID-19 IMPACTED WORKPLACE WELLNESS

Author: Julie Jarvis

Published date: 2020/08

Annie Spratt Qckxruozj Rg Unsplash

From social distancing to the rise of remote working, COVID-19 has changed the way businesses all over the world function. These changes extend further than the workplace, with employers and HR leaders reassessing the wellbeing benefits that will deliver value to employees in a post-COVID world. 

Before the pandemic, wellness programmes delivered considerable value to businesses, with statistics from ITA Group revealing they were responsible for an average reduction in sick days of 28 per cent.

However, the pandemic has shifted employee concerns and priorities considerably, with remote workers facing new approaches to managing their physical and mental health. For employers to ensure they continue delivering benefits that align with employee needs right now, there are some key areas of focus: 

Offsite and online 

Offering employees a gym membership may no longer be enough, or even possible. If remote working is set to become a permanent fixture, location-based benefits are likely to become null and void, with employers advised to explore reimbursement options that enable employees to choose fitness programs that fit in with their lifestyle. 

Additionally, mental health should become a priority for employers, especially as loneliness can easily creep in for remote workers. This should be about more than providing access to a telephone counselling service and include safe ways for the team to connect and socialise.

Health screenings

Not every employee will be able to work from home, so it’s up to employers to communicate and reiterate workplace safety for complete peace of mind. Since the lockdown started to lift, more and more businesses have installed temperature checkers for everyone entering the workplace, and this trend is set to continue. 

Wellbeing is no longer a personal matter; if one person falls ill, the rest of the team and any visitors are at risk. As a result, employers are advised to look at how they can positively affect the health of their workers and ensure it remains a top priority. Here are just some ways you can do this: 

  • Private health insurance cover to ensure swift specialist access, if required. 

  • Complimentary seasonal flu injections. While these are available on the NHS for many, do people actually take up the offer? Offering them privately could help. 

  • Annual health assessments. Of course, employers cannot gain access to any of the information from a health assessment, but they’re designed to spot problems early and advise people on ways they can improve their lifestyle, meaning attitudes towards health could shift in a positive direction. 

Additional support for those who need it

We know that social distancing and remote working can exacerbate mental health conditions, but employers must also pay close attention to how they will be supporting those with chronic conditions. 

Approximately one in three people experience chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and chronic pain can be negatively impacted by the reduced physical activity and poor ergonomics associated with working from home.

It means that a blanket approach to ensuring physical wellness and mental health may not be the right approach when dealing with an increasingly remote workforce. Instead, employers should explore more condition-specific management programmes that provide remote support. 

Great expectations... 

Wellness is not the only aspect of employee management that businesses need to take into account. The expectations of employees, customers, clients, candidates and stakeholders following the pandemic have evolved, and employers will be in the spotlight and judged on how they adapt. 

Over the coming weeks, PRS will serialise our Great Expectations 2021: What questions will you be asked? series, which offers advice on how you can bolster your employer brand and be ready to face some tough questions about how you treated your workers during the pandemic.