Employee wellbeing has not suddenly become important because of the pandemic. Frankly, there has long been a growing need to address issues of physical, mental and financial wellbeing within the workplace. But what the pandemic has done is to bring these issues to the fore.
At the same time, it has also had an effect on the role of employers and the means by which they are able to respond to the needs of their workers. One thing that has not changed is the need to prioritise prevention. Employers play a crucial role in helping to prevent the spread of the virus and in keeping their employees safe. But the age old ‘prevention is better than cure’ adage applies equally well to the broader challenge of maintaining and improving employee wellbeing.
The state of play
Before Covid-19, we were seeing unhealthy behaviours and signs of burnout within the workplace. The changes dictated by Covid-19 have not made things any easier. Many more of us are working from home, but perhaps it would be just as accurate to say more of us are living at work.
More than half the people taking part in Aviva’s recent Age of Ambiguity research agreed the lines between work and leisure time have become increasingly blurred. Our research showed this has also impacted presenteeism, with around a third of employees working in the past three months while suffering from some form of illness.
Inevitably, some will have adapted better than others to the changes 2020 has brought. There has been little time for people to reflect on the situation and adapt to it, both mentally and physically. To help make the transition less traumatic, employers need to ensure they have the right resources at their disposal.
What can employers do?
There are a range of actions businesses can take to support their staff’s mental wellbeing. But firstly, the issues affecting them need to be identified. Employees – and their employers – need to learn how to recognise when stress is leading to burnout, so they can prevent it from becoming an even worse problem.
Increasingly, workplace benefits providers are offering training to help line managers to spot the all-important warning signs. This is a great starting point. The next step is really to understand the root cause of the burnout. Sources of pressure which do not arise within the workplace can still affect what happens there. An individual approach to supporting the employee is key. This starts with developing a culture in which leaders and managers are curious to see the world from their colleagues’ perspective. Finally, it is important to understand what services are already available, and how these can be made accessible to those who need them.
Resources such as wellbeing apps can be a useful way to supplement mental health support within an environment of more widespread remote working and increased social isolation. These apps can make it easier to access GPs and other medical assistance remotely, but they can also play a part in helping with longer term preventative measures to promote both physical and mental wellbeing.
Nutritional support, for instance, is one available service which can have broader benefits than may be appreciated at first glance. Consultations with a qualified nutritionist can help combat the rising incidence of obesity, resulting not only in improved long-term physical health, but also in enhanced self- confidence. Better nutrition can also help with other mental health issues such as stress and sleep quality.
Similarly, if a wellbeing app offers features such as access to an annual health check, or to a second medical opinion, it can result in an improvement in peace of mind which benefits mental health as well as physical. New methods of access, same hallowed principle: prevention before cure.
Embedding wellbeing at work
As well as a strong focus on prevention, another feature which successful wellbeing resources share is a holistic approach to mental and physical health. Looking at the overall picture is also an important standpoint when it comes to planning the wellbeing strategy itself.
Now more than ever, employers need to make sure there is alignment in their approach. The overriding culture of a business is key here. It is not possible to properly address wellbeing and mental health considerations while maintaining an ‘always on’ work environment.
We need to not just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.
The post Dr Subashini M: New normal, old adage – prevention still beats cure appeared first on Corporate Adviser.