News and Articles

Post-Covid attitudes to wellbeing at work and how employee benefits can help

Even before Covid-19 drastically changed the way we work, awareness of the importance of workplace wellbeing had grown significantly in the last few years. But the three pillars of employee health – mental, physical and financial wellbeing – have all been impacted by the pandemic.

We look at the stats to see what’s changed post-Covid, what employers can do and how employee benefits can help.

Attitudes to wellbeing

Back in 2017, less than half (41%) of organisations had a strategy to support emotional wellbeing, and only 21% for financial wellbeing. In pre-Covid 2020, both had risen significantly – to 68% and 51% respectively1.

Given the impact of the pandemic, this extra commitment to look after employees’ wellbeing has never been more vital. A survey in October 2020 revealed 72% of adults in the UK were somewhat or very worried about the effect of Covid-19 on their lives, 64% were worried about their future, and 63% felt stressed or anxious2. Understandably, a third (33%) of UK adults were concerned about their finances3.

And these feelings are filtering into the workplace. Over half of employers (53%) believe Covid-19 will have a negative impact on employee wellbeing4.

Importance of mental health

Pre-Covid, mental health disorders accounted for almost a quarter of the UK’s ill-health5. And even before the pandemic, it was on the rise.

According to the CIPD’s 2020 Health and wellbeing report, 37% of employers saw stress-related absence increase over the last year, while 60% saw common mental health conditions like stress and anxiety rise. Mental ill-health was also the most common cause of long-term absence, with 59% of organisations including it in their top three causes6.

At the beginning of 2020, Deloitte estimated that one-sixth of UK workers were experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, costing UK businesses £42-45bn a year through lost days and reduced productivity7.

When asked about their general mental health since the pandemic, 43% of employees said it had got worse, rising to 52% for those with an existing mental health issue8. While more organisations are taking steps to promote good mental wellbeing at work (70% in 2020 vs 31% in 2016)9, it’s clear employees need even greater support in the current climate.

Importance of physical health

Before Covid, Public Health England revealed 63% of adults in England were overweight, with similar figures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland10.

Excess weight is a risk factor for a wide range of chronic diseases, including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many cancers. It also increases the likelihood of an early death11. In the working environment, 20% of employees believe their weight has a negative impact on their job or career, and 61% of these blame their weight for low energy levels that affect their productivity12.

On the flip side, almost half (47%) of employees believe their job prevents them from losing weight, with 49% blaming skipped gym visits because of longer working hours. A similar number (45%) believe that work-related stress prompts them to turn to unhealthy food options, while 40% blame their sedentary job13.

Like mental health, physical health has suffered as a result of the pandemic. In July 2020, the Covid Symptom Study app showed 29% of people surveyed had gained weight since March 202014. The app also revealed that obese people (with a BMI above 30) are at least 20% more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19 than those with lower BMIs15.

Importance of financial health

Problems with finances can be a significant cause of stress and detrimental to people’s overall health. In the workplace, the knock-on effect can affect employees’ performance.

Nudge Global’s September 2020 survey of over 2,000 employees and HR professionals confirmed financial wellbeing – although recognised as an issue – is still very much the elephant in the room, with 67% of employees feeling their organisation failed to offer relevant support16.

Over half (52%) worry about money at least once a week, while 25% of employees believe that financial stress affects their mental health. But just 7% of people felt confident enough to talk about money at work17.

It’s an alarming stat considering just a month into lockdown, 22% of people were either already facing significant financial difficulties or thought they were very likely to at some point18. Since the pandemic began, 28% of employees think their financial security has worsened– rising to 55% for furloughed workers19.

Meanwhile, 41% of employers have seen employees’ financial issues affect their business negatively – up from just 15% pre-Covid, while a huge 78% of organisations were concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their people’s financial wellbeing20.

How can employee benefits support wellbeing at work?

Even in more normal times, around 80% of employers saw how supporting their workforce’s overall wellbeing benefited their business, with increased loyalty, engagement and productivity topping the list of reasons why21.

And following the impact of Covid-19 on wellbeing, 42% of organisations have already made, or plan to make, significant changes to their benefit programmes, while 23% are looking to improve voluntary benefits and perks22.

When considering which benefits to implement or change, it’s worth thinking about your employee demographic. Different employees value different benefits at different stages of their lives, so consider offering a range of benefits that people can choose from. Some benefits also come with built-in support tools and resources, often to help enhance wellbeing, which can help both employees – and employers.

Life insurance, critical illness insurance and dental insurance can all give employees and their families financial protection against unforeseen circumstances, and the peace of mind that goes with it.

Certain Health Cash Plans not only reimburse employees for smaller medical matters, but offer access to wellbeing and mindfulness apps and resources.

Some employee benefits also come with access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which can include a helpline, allowing employees to talk about their mental, physical or financial health concerns in confidence.

Retail discounts and savings schemes can not only support financial wellbeing by offering a range of savings on everyday spending, they can include access to newsletters and apps providing wellbeing tips and financial advice.

Why Benni?

Benni helps businesses give all their employees access to a choice of employee benefits that protect their health and wellbeing, offer peace of mind and save them money on everyday spending through access to retail discounts.

As a key part of your partnership with Benni, our Engagement Specialists will work with you to highlight what benefits are available to your employees, the potential value to them and their families, and how to use the Benni digital platform to make their choices – simply and quickly.

And follow Benni’s LinkedIn company page, for information on wellbeing, sickness absence and mental health, plus invitations to webinars, top tips, ‘how to’ guides and links to our blog posts.

[1] AON UK Benefits & Trends Survey 2020

[2]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/bulletins/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritain/9october2020

[3] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/MHF-covid-19-inequality-mental-health-briefing.pdf

[4] Willis Towers Watson 2020 Covid-19 Benefits Survey

[5] https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/wellbeing/public-mental-health-evidence-practice-and-commissioning.html

[6] CIPD Health and wellbeing report 2020

[7] https://www.hrgrapevine.com/content/article/2020-08-17-how-hr-should-be-facing-the-surge-in-mental-health-issues

[8] https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/trends/goodwork/covid-impact

[9] CIPD Health and wellbeing report 2020

[10] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907966/PHE_insight_Excess_weight_and_COVID-19__FINAL.pdf

[11] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907966/PHE_insight_Excess_weight_and_COVID-19__FINAL.pdf

[12] Willis Towers Watson Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Barometer 2019. Attitudes of UK employees

[13] Willis Towers Watson Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Barometer 2019. Attitudes of UK employees

[14] https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/lockdown-weight-gain

[15] https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/covid-obesity

[16] https://insights.nudge-global.com/hubfs/2020_The%20elephant%20in%20the%20room_Report/Nudge-ElephantInThe%20Room-FINAL-07Sep2020-1.pdf

[17] https://insights.nudge-global.com/hubfs/2020_The%20elephant%20in%20the%20room_Report/Nudge-ElephantInThe%20Room-FINAL-07Sep2020-1.pdf

[18] https://www.kcl.ac.uk/policy-institute/assets/coronavirus-in-the-uk.pdf

[19] https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/trends/goodwork/covid-impact

[20] https://bdaily.co.uk/articles/2020/09/07/businesses-are-paying-the-price-of-stressed-staff-as-pandemic-money-pressure-takes-its-toll

[21] GRiD Group Risk Benefits Survey – June 2020

[22] Willis Towers Watson 2020 Covid-19 Benefits Survey

Related Content