The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines wellbeing as: “a state of mind in which an individual is able to realise his or her own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community”.
As we return to something more akin to normality and (at least some of us) get back behind our office desks, this definition needs to be kept front of mind. Even before coronavirus struck, wellbeing strategies were becoming an essential part of business planning. Post-COVID they have become even more essential.
Right now it’s critical that those strategies for employee wellbeing are re-examined with some urgency to ensure that they still enable those employees to ‘feel good and function well’.
The way we work has now changed completely. Hybrid working is likely to be with us now for good. Estimates that up to one million employees in the UK will now work at home for some of the week mean new ways both of managing this change and of monitoring the wellbeing of those employees.
We’re already seeing signs that these new working patterns are likely to create new issues which HR will ultimately have to deal with. Recent data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that people working from home did six hours of unpaid overtime a week on average. That compares to 3.6 hours for those not working from home.
It may initially have looked like a win-win, a chance to re-adjust the balance of work and home life while maintaining productivity, but in the longer run it may not work out that way. Instead, it may well present us all with a different set of questions to answer and address.
Ensuring the right support at the right time
In the office or out of the office, all employers want their employees to be able to perform at their best. That means providing the resources needed to support them so they can do just that. In wellbeing terms that means creating a culture which enables those who need it to seek the help they need, without feeling that they will be stigmatised, or their careers held back for seeking that support.
The sooner an employee can be supported, the less dramatic the potential impact on their wellbeing and on the business is likely to be. Caring businesses need to be seen to be caring. To do that necessitates having the right support services in place.
Picking up the pieces after the damage has been done, once, for example, a key worker is so burnt out they can no longer function, is not a good way to demonstrate your caring credentials. Because above all, the onus should not be on the employee to seek out that help, but on the employer to provide the relevant services which the employee feels confident in accessing.
Delivering a caring culture
A good wellbeing culture above all it needs the services offered to be personal to the needs of the individual. Technological solutions do exist, and have their place, but wellbeing can’t be left to an algorithm alone. It needs to be tailored to the specific issues faced by the individual employee and delivered by properly trained professionals with a clinical and healthcare background.
Resources which provide information and enable some degree of self-management are part of the package, but employees also need to have the confidence that the support they access is unique to them and addresses the very individual issues their face. Above all, they need to feel they are in control. That means being able to access support when they need it, so it needs to take account of different patterns of employment, such as shift work, family pressures, location.
The clinical impact of the Covid pandemic may be receding, but the longer-term impacts on health and wellbeing are only just beginning to emerge. Businesses are likely to continue to face significant issues to their functioning as we return to some kind of normality.
It is absolutely vital then that they are able to ensure that employee wellbeing is at the top of the agenda. Giving employees access to the best possible services and professional healthcare support is the best way to ensure that that becomes a reality and the future of your business – whatever that future may hold – is secure.
To find out more about how you can support the wellbeing and resilience of your employees click here.
Andrew McDowell is director of TPC Health