It is true that employers had already been starting to pay greater attention to health and wellbeing, but Covid-19 massively accelerated this trend and now we’re past a point of no return. Firms that fail to embrace healthy ways of working in a hybrid world are destined to seriously lose out.
“According to Vitality and the RSA’s May 2021 Healthy Hybrid Working report, a taste for homeworking has resulted in more than eight in 10 employees wanting to work at home at least part of the week, and more than seven in 10 seeking for work to allow a fit and healthier lifestyle.”
-Jill Pritchard, Director, Vitality at Work
More recent Group Risk Development (GRiD) research findings released this February show that 59% of employers say the change in working patterns to a more remote or hybrid approach has affected the way they support the health and wellbeing of staff, with 43% having introduced benefits to support employees in this new way of working.
The shattering of certain well-established misconceptions has undoubtedly contributed. The idea that face-to-face contact is essential for all medical treatment has gone out of the window, with employees now increasingly taking advantage of services offering access to facilities like virtual GPs, online mental health support and online screenings.
With widespread news that obese people were more likely to die or become seriously ill from Covid-19 came greater awareness that, if one is overweight, their immune system will offer less resistance to a whole range of illnesses – not just Covid.
Additionally, there has been an increased focus on conditions exacerbated by homeworking, such as musculoskeletal problems resulting from makeshift workspaces. Add to this mental health problems linked to employees feeling less connected to colleagues or finding it hard to switch off. A January 2021 Public Health England survey found 49% of people felt the pandemic had impacted negatively on their mental health and wellbeing.
Meanwhile access to healthcare is still limited, with the Health Secretary calling for reform as NHS waiting lists reach all-new highs.
Let’s get engaged
But, perhaps most critical of all, has been the potential for health-related benefits to act as a key retention tool in an era now known as the ‘Great Resignation’.
Research findings published by Slack this January reveal that 29% are considering moving to a new job this year, whilst data released by Grant Thornton this March shows that 63% of mid-sized businesses are experiencing unusually high attrition rates – with 64% reviewing their benefit packages.
Employers seeking to win the war for talent are having to massively up their game because employees today quite rightly want the best of both worlds: a job that gives them flexibility and supports them to stay healthy.
Staff today are demanding both a focus on preventative lifestyles, as well as access to healthcare via multiple pathways. And this is exactly what we, at Vitality, have always sought to offer.
We have robust data to show that, across seven key lifestyle factors, members engaged with the Vitality Programme are at least 10% more likely to improve their health.
Furthermore, as the workplace has changed, so too have methods of engagement, and our Britain’s Healthiest Workplace research has consistently highlighted engagement to be a strong driver of productivity.
Then there’s the opportunity to genuinely initiate behaviour change at work and evidence tangible return on investment (ROI) with regards to the impact that different employee risk factors have on a business, which is the next leap many businesses are taking.
The Aon UK Benefits & Trends 2021 Survey showed that, despite the fact that only 9% of employers were measuring the ROI from their health and wellbeing programmes, 59% were planning to do so in the next 12 to 18 months.
Filling that gap
However, while there are many surveys that provide snapshot parts that help us make up the overall jigsaw, what is needed more now than ever is an authoritative and broad study that provides solid data on which such calculations can confidently be made.
This is exactly why we are so excited about the relaunch of our annual Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey – last conducted in 2019 before Covid.
The study was originally launched a decade ago to provide employers with the necessary information on employee health to enable them to make informed decisions. And, following the toll of the pandemic, this has never felt more relevant.
Employers with the strongest grasp of employee health and wellbeing and of its relationship with productivity will be in the best position to thrive. Now is the time for organisations to understand the full impact of the pandemic on their workforce and consider whether their existing wellbeing strategy is fit for purpose in the new environment, so why not play your part by contributing to the study?
Any business with 20 or more employees can take part and stand a chance of being named the winner of one of three business categories this November. Sign-up here.
“The Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey helps organisations starting out their workplace health and wellbeing journey to build a picture of employee health while providing those that are further advanced the opportunity to reflect on progress and be recognised for their success. Leading employers have already seen that beyond the direct health benefits for their people, there are productivity benefits too. Investment in health and wellbeing leads to greater engagement at work, lower turnover rates and improved job satisfaction.”
Dame Carol Black – Expert Adviser, NHS England & Public Health England and Britain’s Healthiest Workplace chair
A version of this article originally appeared on Vitality Adviser Insights Hub
 GRiD research, Feb 2022
 Every Mind Matters campaign, Public Health England, January 2021
 The Mirror, March 2022
 HR News, January 2022
 Grant Thornton research, March 2022
 Members engaged with the Vitality Programme are at least 10% more likely to improve their health across seven key lifestyle factors which include physical activity, sleep, healthy eating, alcohol intake, smoking, BMI and mental health, based on Vitality data