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Winter is coming! Don't let staff wellbeing get frozen out

Published: 3/10/22

Support for staff wellbeing is going to be more needed this winter - not less - writes Pippa Andrews, Director of Corporate Business for Vitality.

The pandemic put staff wellbeing well and truly in the spotlight, but the focus, as we look towards the winter period, has to be on keeping it on the business agenda.

It’s widely expected that the winter months will prove to be challenging to households and businesses too, if they are not already.

All this is happening at a time when UK unemployment has been at a near 50-year low and job vacancies have been around record highs. But appetites to jump ship could significantly diminish as we go deeper into recession, workforces begin to shrink, and employees start to question their own job security.

Nevertheless, as well as the retention benefits wellness programmes have provided over the past couple of years, the availability of staff mental health and wellbeing support is only going to grow in importance, over the coming months especially.
Pippa Andrews 3

Mental health support

However difficult things become, a key message for employers of all shapes and sizes is that the support provided through private medical insurance and employee wellness programmes will become more needed – not less.

Given the impact of employee ill-health on absence and presenteeism, and in light of the ongoing pressure on the NHS, there has never been a stronger case for having a group private medical insurance scheme that increases access to healthcare, alongside a wellness programme that incentivises preventative lifestyle choices – both physically and mentally.


Putting the ‘S’ into ESG

For employers, a large focus in recent times – and rightly so – has been on ensuring businesses are meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.


With much of the attention on sustainability, another important driver, going into the winter months especially, will be louder calls for organisations to put the ‘S’ (social) into their ESG strategies, by showing how they are looking after their people. This is where a wellbeing scheme that helps keep staff healthy and reduce the burden on our national health service will play a crucial role.


Recent research conduced by CBI Economics in partnership with Vitality, alarmingly, revealed that more than two fifths (42%) 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 do not currently measure it at all1.


Our view is that with businesses expected to do more than just turnover a profit these days – and actually do good – eyes will be on how employers are stepping up to support staff wellbeing at this time.



Another thing to remember is the direct link between employee wellbeing and productivity. Just because employees turn up to the workplace, or work remotely, doesn’t guarantee that their organisation is getting the most out of them.


Indeed, our previous Britain’s Healthiest Workplace findings showed this problem equated to a staggering 38 productive days lost per employee per year2

Furthermore, the recent CBI research shows that seven in 10 businesses see increased productivity as the main benefit of introducing or evolving their health and wellbeing policies, which, of course, delivers many benefits to their bottom line.


The simple fact is that, as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, supplying workforces with the tools employees need to make positive lifestyle changes, regardless of where they are working, not only unlocks productivity, but will benefit businesses by offering them tangible return on investment.

Turnkey solution

The good news is that employers do not need to spend a fortune on putting in place an effective and highly sophisticated wellbeing structure. Our view is that a fully comprehensive, end-to-end workplace wellbeing solution powered by personalised, digital pathways – offering private medical insurance, EAP mental health support as well as savings and benefits all in one place – is the answer.


We believe such a one-stop-shop can be the key that unlocks more than just retention benefits, through an evidence-based health promotion programme that incentivises and rewards better lifestyle choices in a way that helps keeps employees healthy and improves productivity.


Not only that. It can also enable staff to cut costs on things they’d rather not give up - such as gym memberships, running shoes and other discounted services – at a time when budgets are likely to be tight.


Even as we enter the darker, winter months, supporting staff to lead healthier and more productive lives has never been more important. Not only is it the right thing to do for staff, but it is good for businesses too. The pandemic put staff wellbeing into the spotlight. This winter is about keeping that light on.
Mental health

Employee health and wellbeing.

To get deeper insight into the employee health and wellbeing of your organisation, why not take part in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace?
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1 Research by CBI Economics and Vitality, 2022
2 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace 2019