A new era in corporate wellness

After what has been a gruelling 2020 for many employees and a blurring of the boundaries between work and home, there is now an expectation that organisations will have a robust HWB strategy if they are to attract and retain talent. From an employee’s perspective, health and wellbeing can no longer remain a box-ticking exercise. It needs to be part of the company ethos, writes Cathy McDonald, Executive General Manager, Vitality Works

The brutal reality of COVID-19 has shown us all how critical people leadership and culture is. It has pushed us to elevate our human capacity for care, connection and understanding, as we lead employees through unprecedented change.

How businesses responded during this time will forever make an impression on our most valuable assets – our people. So, how can organisations build an effective health and wellbeing (HWB) strategy that provides the appropriate mental, physical, social and emotional support that current and future employees expect?

To gain insight, Vitality Works conducted research across 13 industry sectors in Australia and New Zealand. The results provided unique understandings into how COVID-19 has impacted businesses and the influence a post-COVID world will have on the future of health and wellbeing. 

Treat employees as people and not just as workers
People are the lifeline of any organisation. Without them, companies don’t exist. And while this has always been a truth, the pandemic has shone a much-needed light on it and prompted organisations to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their employees.

According to the Vitality Works Corporate Wellness in a New Era Survey, in the 12 months pre-pandemic, only 40 per cent of organisations viewed having a HWB strategy as a high priority. Now that number has increased to 82 per cent and is growing.

Depression and anxiety; mental wellbeing; team morale; fatigue/burnout and physical wellbeing are five of the top issues that our research identified as potentially negatively impacting employees over the next six months due to COVID-19.

After what has been a gruelling 2020 for many employees and a blurring of the boundaries between work and home, there is now an expectation that organisations will have a robust HWB strategy if they are to attract and retain talent. From an employee’s perspective, health and wellbeing can no longer remain a box-ticking exercise. It needs to be part of the company ethos.

As people leaders, we must heed this opportunity to look beyond the “worker” and view, understand and support individuals in their totality. Our number one goal now should be to help employees take small steps every day to create a culture of mental safety and openness, both in their work and home lives. 

Safety and mental health challenges are constant
The past year has illustrated the impact that change and uncertainty is having on mental health and safety, and it has reinforced that it’s not just temporary, but ongoing.

As a result, organisations must respond by expanding or redeveloping their HWB strategies to help employees deal not only with the physical, psychological and work-related challenges faced since the pandemic, but also to navigate the change and uncertainty that lie ahead.

The pandemic prompted many employers to integrate new technology quickly to meet the changing needs of remote workers. The exciting opportunity moving forward is to encourage staff to connect virtually and to use technological changes to help deliver more targeted, personalised and innovative health and wellbeing initiatives.

Depression and anxiety; mental wellbeing; team morale; fatigue/burnout and physical wellbeing are five of the top issues that our research identified as potentially negatively impacting employees over the next six months due to COVID-19.

To manage this, it will be critical for people leaders to take a whole-person view of individuals, helping them build their mental, social, physical, financial, vocational and spiritual wellbeing, now and into the future.

For remote workers, re-examining personal safety policies to include family violence protection measures and additional addiction support may be required on an ongoing basis by some organisations. 

Understanding the post COVID work and critical next steps
HR and wellness professionals are not only finding that the HWB needs of employees have changed, but the method of delivery of HWB programs must be adapted to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce.

The pandemic prompted many employers to integrate new technology quickly to meet the changing needs of remote workers. The exciting opportunity moving forward is to encourage staff to connect virtually and to use technological changes to help deliver more targeted, personalised and innovative health and wellbeing initiatives.

Wearable technology, health apps, telemedicine and digital communication offer new, interactive methods of delivering wellness initiatives, allowing businesses to reach employees across multiple locations and working situations.

Central to the success of such initiatives, however, will be people leaders who have the knowledge, tools, and skills to lead on mindfulness strategies and manage mental health issues through proactive and preventative approaches. 

Our number one goal now should be to help employees take small steps every day to create a culture of mental safety and openness, both in their work and home lives. 

Measurement has never been so important
Vitality Works research revealed that more than 30 per cent of organisations don’t measure the effectiveness of their wellness programs. This is despite the significant influence that the health and wellbeing of our workforce has on culture, performance and business success.

Collecting data and measuring the outcomes of your HWB programs not only helps to determine ROI and employee outcomes, but is critical for garnering insights into an employee’s health, their health behaviours, and their readiness for growth and development.

Adopting digital HWB initiatives offers a natural opportunity for data capture. In addition to tracking hard data, it will also be important to regularly survey employees about their perceptions of your organisation’s HWB program and its effectiveness.

As this new frontier of people leadership is upon us and employee HWB becomes a key barometre for success, businesses are encouraged to use these insights to build from or refine their health and wellness strategy for 2021 and beyond.

Key takeaways

  • Since the pandemic, there is now an expectation that organisations will have a robust HWB strategy if they are to attract and retain talent.
  • Blurred work and home boundaries have pushed organisations to look at HWB support across the whole person, not just the ‘worker’.
  • Safety and mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic are ongoing and need to be addressed accordingly by organisations.
  • Embracing digital technologies offers the ability to be more targeted, personalised and innovative with health and wellbeing initiatives.
  • Data collection from, and evaluation of, HWB initiatives is essential for determining ROI and garnering insights into employee health, health behaviours, and readiness for growth and development.

Download our Free Whitepaper: Corporate Wellness in a new Era – http://bit.ly/VW-Whitepaper

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