Five key wellbeing themes from 2021

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BLOG ARTICLE | By The Simplyhealth Team | 27th April 2021

The CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work Report has been sharing the latest trends and insights in the world of workplace health and employee wellbeing for over two decades. These findings allow organisations and HR professionals to translate the results into their own activities and businesses.

This year’s report looks into important areas such as absence management, wellbeing benefits provision and mental health. You can download the full report here, or read on to explore five key themes from this year’s findings.

1. Over two-fifths of businesses are ‘extremely concerned’ about the impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health

Mental health remains a key issue for most organisations. The past year has provided brand new challenges to overcome, and with them a variety of new issues to consider. With the likely increase in mental health concerns due to COVID-19, lockdown restrictions and social isolation, businesses have been looking to the tools available to help identify areas of concern and offer effective solutions to their workforce.

Over 80% of organisations are using Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to identify and reduce stress in the workplace. By using the anonymous data employers can recognise what their employees might be currently facing, which could include financial worries, mental ill health or managing work-life balance and stress. This also provides the opportunity to implement additional support schemes, signpost to further support and schedule internal communications that highlight the services available through an EAP.

2.  Financial wellbeing receives the least attention from organisations

Financial wellbeing is less of a priority for organisations to tackle. It continues to be ranked as low priority year on year, but can be a great source of stress for employees. This can then impact their mental wellbeing, as well as their performance at work. Less than half (41%) of organisations report that their activities are designed to promote financial wellbeing, highlighting just how many employers are overlooking these issues.

Changes in circumstances through furlough, redundancies, working patterns and additional homeworking costs have caused a dramatic shift in financial situations. As we look at life beyond the pandemic it will be essential for employers to consider financial wellbeing as part of their overall strategy.

3. Unhealthy practices, such as ‘presenteeism’ and ‘leavism’ are on the rise

Many employees have moved into full-time remote working, which presents new challenges for both employees and employers. It may be more difficult for people to switch off from work when there is no longer an obvious divide between the office and home. Staff may also feel more pressured to work additional hours outside of their contract, which can result in unhealthy practices such as ‘presenteeism’ and ‘leavism’.

An overwhelming 84% of respondents have observed ‘presenteeism’, where employees continue working during a period of sickness, both in the workplace (75%) and while working at home (77%) over the past 12 months. While 70% have observed some form of ‘leaveism’, such as working outside contracted hours or using holiday entitlement to work, over the past 12 months. As businesses seek to make remote working an essential part of the new normal, it’s important to identify and manage these practices that could easily be masked by absence levels changing.

4. Almost three-fifths of employees cite workload as a cause of stress

Work-related stress continues to contribute to mental ill health, so it’s essential employers are able to identify what is impacting their employees’ stress levels and take action. With over half of employees (59%) citing workload as a cause of stress, as well as management style being the second highest cause of stress, it’s imperative that managers are provided with the tools they need to support employees in a meaningful way.

Less than half of organisations (43%) train line managers to support staff with mental ill health. Therefore, it’s not surprising less than 38% agree managers are confident to have sensitive discussions and signpost people to expert sources of help if needed. As we face rapid changes in the coming months, managers will continue to be invaluable in understanding and aiding employees with stress.

5. Proactive updates to benefit offerings are maximising employee support

To ensure a benefits package offers relevant support, it’s vital that businesses regularly review their current offering. This enables them to identify areas for improvement to help their workforce stay healthy. This year has seen an increase in access to counselling services, with 74% of employers providing this service, up from 72% in the previous year. EAPs are also being offered by more organisations, with an increase of 6% since last year.

With such dramatic shifts in the way we work, it’s possible that employees will be struggling with areas such as mental health, work-life balance and finances. Ensuring services are available that cover a range of issues, paired with effective communication to your workforce, will ensure your employees are able to access the support they need.

What next?

Simplyhealth’s annual survey with the CIPD takes its findings from a base of 600 organisations across the UK. It’s clear this year that employee wellbeing has received increased attention due to the pandemic. Will we see things continue to change as we adapt to life post-lockdown and continue to embrace a new way of working?

You can download this year’s edition of the Health and Wellbeing at Work Report by clicking the link.

All findings taken from the 2021 edition of the CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work Report