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The must-have employment benefits in a post-COVID-19 society

Pippa Andrews, VitalityHealth Director Corporate

Updated: 22nd December 2020

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 (Vitality, 2020) showing that we’re more at risk of anxiety and stress than pre-lockdown, it’s so much more important for your clients’ 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 for your business clients to review their benefits and ways of working to ensure they’re fit for purpose, resilient to societal changes, support their 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, an analysis of Vitality members’ tracked activity showed a 28% reduction in activity in the first few weeks of lockdown (Vitality member data, 2020), before the launch of Vitality at Home.

Being such an important factor in our overall wellbeing, there’s huge benefit to encouraging exercise among your clients’ employee population – and it’s something that can be built into their 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 your clients’ 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 clients’ 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 your business clients can provide direct support to their 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 clients’ employees can get the help they need without fear of reprisal.

Employee 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 clients’ 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 clients’ 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 an individual’s health data and risks, your clients can encourage their employees to make positive changes. As employers, knowing the health risks of their population allows your business clients to target their 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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