The profound impact that COVID-19 has had on the workplace – both in the UK and globally – cannot be overstated. The pandemic has turned the traditional way of working on its head and accelerated trends in hybrid and agile working that otherwise could have taken years to materialise.
The landscape has changed exponentially. Pre-COVID, it was estimated that around 4.6 million people in the UK worked from home – just 14% of the country’s 32.6 million workforce. Now, a reported 60% of the nation’s adult population are working remotely.
However, while the coronavirus has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the working environment, recent findings from a leading UK think tank suggest that the five-day office week could return within two years. Centre For Cities believes that the rise in working from home prompted by the pandemic is unlikely to last as companies start to realise ‘the benefit of working face to face’.
While questions remain about whether remote working is here to stay, there’s one thing that’s in no doubt – the increasing prominence of health and wellbeing. The global health crisis has, unsurprisingly, pushed employee wellbeing up the business agenda, placing it alongside finance as one of the top priorities for leaders and managers.
Employers have been faced with unprecedented challenges – the immediate threat of the coronavirus to employee health; the unknown impact of Long COVID; the growing issue of mental health at work; and the added complication of managing employees’ wellbeing in a remote world. Even if people do return to the workplace in the months and years to come, the truth is that health and wellbeing is likely to remain a key focus for businesses. Below are five reasons why looking after staff is here
Systems and structures
Managing teams remotely has posed significant issues when it comes to delivering an effective health and wellbeing strategy. Teams have had to rethink and readjust by implementing robust systems and structures that can help bypass the issue of not being in front of employees to identify and address problems. Those processes have become ingrained into established ways of working and offer greater flexibility, regardless of whether people are in the office or at home.
Technology is developing at a pace, with health and wellbeing platforms offering cutting-edge solutions in a changing world. However, the key to greater adoption boils down to one simple factor: price. By making technology more cost-effective, it will allow employers to embed those costs into existing overheads. Increased engagement in the consumer market, such as the rise in diagnostic wearables, will also force businesses to consider the use of technology, as employees strive to achieve better health and wellbeing in their personal life and at work.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought wellbeing into sharp focus for everyone. Employees now appreciate the value of their own mental and physical health more than ever and increasingly expect this to be reciprocated by employers. Occupational Health has changed enormously in recent years, and this change has been further spurred on by COVID-19. It is no longer about being reactive and sending someone off to the GP. Today, it’s about preventative measures and employees themselves are pushing that agenda.
The financial stability of many businesses has been called into question over the last 18 months, as margins have been stretched and tested like never before, but historical data tells us that even prior to the pandemic the amount of money being spent on health and wellbeing was on the increase. In the past, the average spend per employee was between £15 and £20 each year, but for businesses with 1,000-plus employees this has now risen to between £20 and £40 per year. This shows a firm commitment to investing in health and wellbeing. In the same way that the Apprenticeship Levy has created an ‘acceptable’ amount when it comes to investing in skills and training, in time it is predicted that a similar ‘minimum spend’ on health and wellbeing will emerge.
There has been significant momentum in recent years to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. High-profile campaigns and changing sentiment in the workplace have enabled people to talk more openly about the subject and, in turn, to proactively manage any issues in a preventative way, championing ‘mental fitness’. With conversations opening up and enabling employees to speak more freely about mental health, health and wellbeing strategies have had to reflect this change, providing a permanent and engaging platform for employees – whether at work or at home.
The pay-off for looking after your staff is clear. While the connection between employee wellbeing and sickness absence and presenteeism hasn’t always been recognised, it’s evident that productivity and good health go hand in hand in the workplace and if you look after the health and wellbeing of your people, you will get a better business return.
The Medigold Health Group is one of the UK’s most trusted Occupational Health & Wellbeing providers and has been helping businesses to keep their people in work, safe and well for over two decades.
Medigold works with organisations across all industry sectors, from major blue-chip companies to small and medium enterprises with fewer than 250 employees, helping them to reduce risks and remain compliant with their health and safety obligations and providing them with tailored solutions designed to proactively support the physical and mental wellbeing of their teams to ensure they consistently perform at their best.
With more than 2,500 clients, looking after three million individual employees, Medigold employs over 200 occupational health clinicians running more than 100 clinics across the country, delivering services including absence management, employee screening, health surveillance, alcohol and drug testing, and mental health and wellbeing programmes.