With the rush to get employees up and running and working remotely, have businesses given enough consideration to health and wellbeing? Have they made sure everyone has had a healthy environment to work in? Will we see an influx of MSK conditions being diagnosed as a result?
Chris Tomkins, AXA PPP healthcare’s Head of Wellbeing, looks at how businesses can build a health and wellbeing strategy that supports employees even during lockdown, helping people stay productive and engaged.
As a society we have probably broken the record for appropriate use of the word ‘unprecedented’ in recent months. The lockdown restricting us to our homes and (for the luckier ones) gardens exposed us all to physical and mental health challenges. As employers we learned something we already knew deep down that we cannot simply partition home and work. As a result the consequences of these few months will affect our people and our businesses long after life returns to the new normal.
The science clearly shows the relationship between developing health risks and performance at work and play. The immense focus this event has brought upon our wellbeing also raises a challenge to us as individuals and companies – now that lock down is lifting, how can we come back better?
We need to help our employees turn daily routines into work-outs for both body and mind and modern businesses have a good selection of tools to do so.
As an employer when building a wellbeing initiative there are a number of elements to consider:
Many people have a smartwatch or an app on their phone to measure their health, and using technology to measure your health and wellbeing is commonplace. So a business health and wellbeing strategy with technology at its centre makes good sense.
Technology makes accessing wellbeing support possible for remote workers. Consistent access to support in these cases is a real challenge. And very often this alone will be enough to stop businesses from actively promoting a wellbeing programme.
Technology also provides ‘programme reach’, much as it does with telephony and video conferencing. Businesses can easily offer links to support.
Taking advantage of online health assessments can be key to any meaningful health initiative. Help people to first understand their health status and they will often do the rest themselves. If they are ignorant about their current level of health they are less likely to take an interest. So getting them to interact with wellbeing technology can be an easy introduction to making meaningful changes to their health.
Technology driven insight
When you establish and manage an evolving wellbeing programme it’s crucial you have insight at your disposal. What health risks are there in your business? How do these compare with other businesses?
If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it so never try to run a wellbeing initiative without knowing what needs attention. Your chosen technology solution should include a rich source of insight to help steer your efforts.
Businesses of all sizes understand the critical importance of strong communications but, with wellbeing, it’s usually overlooked. Education is the first step to employee wellbeing, as is guidance to resources, so strong communication is critical.
Education is also where many businesses can make the most inroads with little expense, especially when linked to assessments. Communications channels are usually well-established, so it can be as easy as incorporating wellbeing content into existing plans.
The use of experts
All businesses need experts to deliver training, whether it’s mandatory, developmental or motivational. Your wellbeing initiative should be treated in just the same way. Wellbeing service delivery by experts elevates an initiative from a ‘tick box’ exercise to continuous improvement.
Your experts will signpost employees to the benefits and services available to them. In some cases they’ll also act as gatekeeper, prescribing interventions to the right people at the right time.
If businesses were to offer all wellbeing benefits to everyone, some employees might use the services more for curiosity than need. Better to adopt a risk-led model following individual need and offer a course of health coaching to a colleague assessed as having the right mindset and readiness for change, than to make fit colleagues even fitter or to satisfy the curiosity of those wanting to try something for free.
Keep it simple
The wellbeing space can be confusing and crowded, but if you focus on a small number of key areas and have a clear launch and development strategy, you’ll see huge benefits. Well-executed employee wellbeing initiatives need to be clear and not overcomplicated.