World Wellbeing Week: What does the future of wellbeing look like?

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Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa UK spoke to Business Leader about the importance of employee wellbeing and what the future holds for the workforce.

Many businesses across the world will be celebrating World Wellbeing Week this week. As we look forward to the new normal after a year of lockdown restrictions, it’s important to celebrate the positive ways employers have shifted their expectations and helped to boost employee wellbeing over the past year.

New research by Bupa UK has revealed 36% of the UK workforce have reported employers have a greater understanding of mental health.

However, just as employers’ perspectives towards workplace wellbeing have changed, employees’ expectations are shifting rapidly as we adapt to the next chapter of working life. Many employees are now keen to take some benefits of lockdown such as working from home and flexible working hours back into their post-lockdown working life.

With so much change in a short space of time, this leaves the question – what does the future of wellbeing look like?

Naomi Humber, Head of Mental Wellbeing at Bupa UK, shares key wellbeing lessons employers can take from the pandemic to support employees and future proof workplace wellbeing in a post pandemic world.

Support flexibility

Most of us have experienced a change to our working lives over the past year due to the pandemic. You can encourage flexibility in the workplace in several ways, including flexible working hours and remote working options. If you’re considering flexibility in your workplace, you aren’t alone.

New analysis by Bupa UK has revealed 49% of the UK workforce would like their employers to offer increased working from home opportunities in the future. And 33% of UK employees want more flexibility in terms of working patterns and hours.

Creating new working policies which incorporate positive changes from the pandemic – such as flexible working patterns and remote working opportunities – is a simple way that businesses can support the wellbeing of their employees.

However, there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to flexible working policies – remote working is not possible for all businesses or roles. Discuss with your employees how you can form new working policies that support both the needs of your business and team.

As we look towards the future, employers should aim to create a working environment that makes employees feel both comfortable and empowered.

Focus on mental health recovery

The pandemic has had a huge impact on mental health, both at home and work. Research has revealed that pressure was the most common cause of work-related stress last year, with many of the UK workforce experiencing mental health issues such as ‘boreout’ and ‘burnout’.

While there has been a greater understanding of mental health in the workplace over the past year, 32% of those surveyed want their employers to place a greater focus on supporting their mental health over the next 12 months.

As we navigate through new ways of working, we need to keep the mental health needs of people at the forefront of business decisions.

From small actions such as regular team check-ins and catch ups, to companywide initiatives such as line manager training, resilience workshops, and mental health first aiders. These are all steps that can be taken to manage mental health in the workplace as we emerge from the pandemic.

Access to wellbeing services

Almost half (46%) of the UK workforce believe wellbeing support services offered by their employer have improved over the past 12 months – a key wellbeing gain of 2020.

Over the past year we have made progress in removing barriers to accessing healthcare such as, taking time off work for medical appointments with the increased availability of remote health services over the past.

Whilst we have seen an improvement in wellbeing services available businesses shouldn’t stop there. 33% of UK employees surveyed say they would prioritise their health more if they have greater access to virtual services. Similarly, 14% of the UK workforce would like businesses to increase the availability of remote services provided.

Businesses should look to follow a health-first approach to people management, ensuring employees have access to both mental and physical health support services – both in person and remotely. As a result, businesses will see greater productivity, reduce employee turnover and absences – all which account for a successful business environment.

Encourage culture, diversity, and inclusion

Businesses that embrace workplace diversity reap the rewards, including a greater range of talent, idea generation, new ways of thinking, innovation and a greater understanding of customer bases.

While many businesses are taking steps to improve workplace diversity and inclusion, we must strive to put diversity at the top of the agenda. We found that 14% of UK employees would like to see more policies introduced to promote and protect diversity and inclusion in the workplace over the next 12 months.

As we look towards the future business leaders need to look towards how they can embrace diversity and inclusion within their organisations.

From educating managers in diversity and inclusion matters, hiring leaders who understand the importance of these values and helping employees to feel comfortable to express themselves and their values. These are all achievable steps that can be taken to promote workplace culture, diversity and inclusion.

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