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Before coronavirus, there already was a hub of HR activity centred on promoting employee mental health and championing wider wellbeing. As working from home was rolled out in March 2020 and many employees worked from home for the first time, employers had the additional challenge of grappling with how to support staff remotely.

We explore the positive results of our latest pulse survey that we ran last week to understand the extent to which employees feel supported.

1. High commitment to wellbeing


Overall, 92 per cent think that companies are demonstrating their commitment to employee wellbeing, which is a hugely positive finding that employers are actively supporting employees.

Aside from coronavirus and its specific challenges, inherent in this employer commitment is the acknowledgement that the human body needs balance and that a more productive employee is a well-rested individual. Any initial concerns over productivity had to be balanced with the realities behind the work/home life blend experienced by employees, that risked them actually over-working and feeling more pressure. Without the physical separation of home and office space, some employees have found it hard to compartmentalise.

2. Embracing flexible working arrangements

As the UK entered lockdown 3.0 and school closures have necessitated many parents juggling home-schooling around work commitments, flexible hours have become even more valuable. The ability of employees to choose their own working hours helps them to manage their own workload. Giving greater autonomy can drive employee engagement according to Drive author Dan Pink.

There is also greater acknowledgement that there should be no stigma associated with recharging.

Laing O-Rourke apply a programme recognised in elite sports, using the concept of an energy survey in their Health and Wellbeing programme, which reflects how professional athletes must have peak times of both activity and rest. Methods to focus people’s physical, mental, emotional and purposeful energy rely on building in periods of rest to the natural working day.

Strategies designed to increase energy levels include limiting zoom meetings to certain hours to encourage lunch breaks, 45 minute meetings to make them focused and give breathing space either side, ‘walking’ meetings to get people outside, sleep webinars that encourage employees to sleep before 11pm, taking back control of the day by prioritising your ‘to do list’ from the outset, introducing dedicated windows to check emails and avoid reacting. These strategies can drive efficiency, with science underpinning the proven notion that taking a break and acting purposefully can result in higher peak performance at work.

3. Encouraging asking for help

Throughout the pandemic, the importance of clear line management has never been clearer. They are a pivotal factor in employee engagement and the success of remote working has often hinged on their management approach. The balance of employee autonomy versus employee productivity has trust at its core. The stronger the line manager relationship, the stronger potential for successful outcomes in the remote working arrangement. Clear expectations and open communication have been crucial in this area, so it is encouraging that most employees feel their manager genuinely cares about their wellbeing.

This is reflected in our findings in our UK Reward Management Survey that showed 90 per cent of employers have policies and procedures in place to specifically support mental health and wellbeing. Greater awareness goes a long way to address any traditional stigmas around the issue in the workplace, which 36 per cent of employers still grapple with.

4. Managing stress levels


This is crucial in the uncertain times employers and employees are experiencing alike and a welcome sign of progress from 2010, when Mind found that out of the one in five workers forced to call into work because of stress, 93 per cent of those say they have lied to their boss about the real reason behind their absence. Some organisations had to make a quick switch to remote working, some rolling out infrastructure overnight in March 2020. Isolation from friends and family, balancing caring responsibilities with work, and those facing redundancies are just some of the numerous conditions that risk increasing employee stress in turbulent times.

The prolonged nature of restrictions in place across the UK is a concern for many employers who continue in their efforts to safeguard employee wellbeing and drive employee engagement. At Paydata, we have launched an internal health and wellbeing programme, including Step into 2021, pledging to donate to £1 for every 10,000 steps taken by each of our team members in January. In addition, Mind have numerous resources, including guides to help employees manage their feelings and Wellness Action Plans to tailor support and empower employees to plan their own structures and routines. It is also accompanied on their website by an employer user guide to help manage the process.

5. The value in the reward

It is interesting to note the most valued health and wellbeing elements of wellbeing programmes offered by employers. The three most valued benefits are:

  1. Flexible working
  2. Access to counselling services
  3. Employee Assistance Programme

The three top initiatives are focused on employee health and mental wellbeing; the top valued initiative reflects the current situation, with a large proportion working from home and many juggling their work around other commitments, such as childcare and home schooling.

Across all of our HR Group workshops, which bring together HR professionals on a regular basis to share current practices, the focus has remained on employee wellbeing in winter months. Over a sustained period of time, fatigue sets in. Customers continue to address this and are providing senior management communications that drive cohesiveness throughout organisations, aligning everyone to the same vision.

Employers were already bracing themselves for the first three to four months of this year which they expected would be tough. In the first lockdown, employees on average received one or two updates a week, which eased to every few weeks over the summer when a return to the office was discussed widely. A strong focus on communicating the support available to employees who may be struggling will be important.

Get in touch

In contrast to our historical ways of working, where the 9 to 5 was a product of the industrial revolution and tied to opening hours at factories, we now live in a knowledge world. This may be acknowledged beyond the pandemic where physical hazards are now mostly replaced with risks of burnout and stress for employees. Increased performance and productivity need to be reframed and some employers are already offering four-day working weeks to strike a greater balance between work and life. If we can help you to reframe your wellbeing strategy, call us today.

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