The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work forever. It forced offices across the country to close and meant working from home became commonplace, whether companies had flexible working policies or not.

Fast forward almost a year and we’re looking at trends we’ve seen and thinking about how we can redefine employee wellbeing.

Investment in health and wellbeing is crucial to attract and retain talent. Businesses who take the time to invest in their employee’s health will reap the benefits of being at the front-end of recruiting and retaining talent.

What’s more, the current situation has given employers the chance to promote benefits which really meet colleagues’ newfound needs. For example, our research has shown that a third of adults have avoided going to the doctor for ongoing health symptoms since the pandemic began.

When asked why they put off seeking help, 42 per cent said they worried they would waste doctors’ time or resources, while 41 per cent assumed the problem would simply go away.

As well as thinking about their own health, colleagues may also need to support with their family with theirs, for example looking after their children or parents. Our teenage mental health campaign found that three in four 13-19 year olds have experienced physical health issues related to poor mental health since March last year.

This presents a unique opportunity for employers to step in and help employees look after their health. Whether this is through understanding their needs and providing information and support, or enabling access to health services that they otherwise might struggle to access through the NHS.

It also helps improve productivity and means we have fewer sick days which is estimated to cost UK businesses £77.5 billion a year.

Below, we’ve outlined our top tips on how we put employee wellbeing top of the agenda.

The importance of access to services – Now more than ever people are aware of their physical and mental health and wellbeing and need provisions in place to accommodate that. Whether this is access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), GP services or annual health MOTs, employees need to know that they have services in place to support them and their family’s health.

There are still ongoing difficulties in accessing face-to-face wellbeing support, so wellbeing strategies within businesses need to be adapted to mirror this and direct employees to virtual services.

The landscape has changed, people have become used to doing things remotely, so it’s important to have flexibility even post-pandemic as they may still want to use remote services over face-to-face ones.

Education – Even the best services are useless if employees don’t know how to access them. Line manager and manager training needs to be up to date, this can be done through online learning platforms, through manager’s guides, checklists, information leaflets and campaigns within the business.

Education is key to understanding and supporting employees with their needs and we need to go beyond tick box activities, for example do managers understand how to have sensitive conversations and model behaviours themselves? Internal campaigns can also be used to promote awareness and break stigmas internally.

Motivate employees to use their benefits – While employees are currently working from home, why not host engaging webinars, inviting external speakers to address key topics, create podcasts or simply share content via email to signpost services, policies, and top tips. Use these sessions to motivate and inspire people to take advantage of their wellbeing benefits.

Introduce relevant policies – Policies need to reflect the implications that the pandemic has had on our physical and mental health. They need to represent relevant and often difficult topics, such as domestic violence, bereavement, women’s health and musculoskeletal problems as well as mental health.

It’s time to look at our business models and identify where we can adapt to meet our people’s needs. Employee health and wellbeing plays a huge part in this, and by investing in employee needs we drive productivity as well as attracting and retaining talent.

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