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Pippa Andrews: Why employers can no longer ignore staff wellbeing

Published: 27/07/2022

Employers are expected to do more to support staff wellbeing these days, but actually doing so in a hybrid working environment presents a whole new set of challenges, writes Pippa Andrews, Director of Corporate Business for Vitality.

Seismic change in working practices and shifts in employee values in recent years have seen attitudes towards staff wellbeing also turn on their head.

A consumer survey commissioned by Vitality, in partnership with Censuswide, for a new report, has revealed that a staggering 82% of UK office workers believe companies have a greater responsibility to support the mental health and physical wellbeing of their people following the pandemic.

The same research shows that 77% of UK workers say that having an employer that cares about their physical and mental health has become more important since Covid-19.

“Helping staff to live healthier and more productive lives and feel like they are getting something back from employers is needed now more than ever”

- Pippa Andrews, Director of Corporate Business, Vitality

With UK unemployment at a 48-year low, and with employees having had ample opportunity to reappraise their goals, values and aspirations during lockdown, employers are facing the stark reality that staff are increasingly willing to vote with their feet if they don’t like what they see.

'Great resignation'

Indeed, the latest research finds that 45% of UK office workers would be more likely to consider leaving to join another company which is putting employee health and wellbeing first as part of a hybrid-working approach.

Fuelling this ‘Great Resignation’ is a shift in employee attitude that has seen expectations change around work-life balance, together with employee benefits packages that provide a range of useful wellness tools.

Staff members – and businesses too - are seeing the advantages of cutting out the commute for at least part of their working week. They have also become used to being able to access virtual GPs or online mental health support services simply via the click of a mouse.

Putting employee wellbeing first

The Vitality survey of 2,005 UK office workers also finds flexible working (66%) is the most appealing health and wellbeing benefit an employer could offer their employees post pandemic, followed by the ability to work anywhere (50%).

The next most attractive is the provision of more than the statutory holiday allowance (40%), vouchers or cash to spend on health and wellness (39%), and access to private healthcare (37%).

Seismic shift

When we asked C-Suite executives for their views as part of a survey conducted by CBI Economics for the new report, three quarters of firms agree their company has prioritised health and wellbeing since the pandemic.

Additionally, the research finds that 57% of businesses report that access to mental health resources, like counselling or apps, remain the most-commonly introduced or evolved support for employee health in hybrid and office environments.

Perhaps just as importantly, this new CBI Economics research demonstrates that companies introducing these measures are perceiving a tangible return on investment.

Almost seven in 10 businesses see increased productivity as a main benefit of introducing or evolving their health and wellbeing policies. Furthermore, previous CBI research has found that businesses that invest in mental health have employees that are up to 12% more productive .

All this begs the question: can organisations really afford to ignore such potentially significant benefits to their bottom line?

Stepping up to the challenge

Providing the right benefits and tailoring packages to staff in the current environment is certainly challenging.

As we heard from Dame Carol Black in a recent interview ahead of Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, employers “knowing their data and how to measure it” is one step towards solving the problem.

However, as the new CBI Economics research shows, 59% of businesses are finding it difficult to tailor benefits and policies to ensure they meet the health and wellbeing needs of different people.

It also sheds a little light on why this is the case, with 36% of businesses saying they don’t have enough time or resources to dedicate to supporting health and wellbeing, and 32% saying that introducing new policies for a hybrid workforce is complicated.

This is where an evidence-based health promotion programme, which incentivises and rewards better lifestyle choices can really make a difference. Especially if it means employees can cut costs on things they’d rather not give up – such as gym memberships, new running shoes and other discounted services - at a time when finances are likely to be tight.

Helping staff to live healthier and more productive lives and feel like they are getting something back from employers is needed now more than ever.

Call to action

Especially as companies are going to struggle to grant pay rises that keep pace with the soaring Consumer Prices Index. Being creative about the employee benefits they offer will be key to counteracting disappointment due to potential shortfalls elsewhere.

Even employers who are already doing their bit to support employee wellbeing will still need to continue to adapt and tailor their wellbeing programme in this new environment, as the needs of employees continue to evolve. With this comes the need to take action.

Alarmingly, more than two fifths (42%) surveyed in the CBI Economics report research either do not include employee health and wellbeing on their company risk register or do not have a risk register in place. Over a quarter don’t currently actually measure employee health and wellbeing at all.

We, at Vitality, believe that both steps are absolutely essential in this new era, as responsibility for staff wellbeing increasingly shifts onto the employer. After all, without quantifying the size of the problem, how can organisations even begin to solve it?
To get deeper insight into the employee health and wellbeing of your organisation, why not take part in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace? Find out more.

Find out more about how Vitality can support the health and wellbeing of your business here.
Find out more about how indexation works and why it is a good idea for your clients, especially at this time.

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Keep mental health front of mind, CBI, April 2021