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Free resource aims to help businesses tackle employee stress and wellbeing

Landmark laya healthcare research finds that stress management and flexibility are key issues for workers and it has responded with a new series designed to provide help

We are, laya healthcare says, in a brave new era for health and wellbeing. The pandemic has turned the way we work upside down and as a result, stress management and flexibility are key issues for workers right now, new research from the health insurer has discovered.

The research, which took place in July 2020, is based on an independently-commissioned survey of more than 1,000 employees and 188 employers, as well as in-depth interviews with human resource leaders and business owners.

It is the cornerstone of laya healthcare’s Brave New Era series of HR leader ‘Playbooks’ which will be rolling out over the coming months. The series takes a holistic approach to providing HR practitioners and business leaders with fascinating insights into the impact the pandemic is having on employee wellbeing, and what they can do to help.

Future-proofing Health and Wellbeing Playbook is now available and contains a wealth of tips and insights for HR professionals who are supporting employees through challenging times.

READ MORE

Laya healthcare is well placed to provide such insights, as it is the leading provider of health and wellbeing programmes in the country, providing more than 3,000 wellbeing programmes to 2,000 companies annually.

Pre-pandemic, all of these were delivered onsite – everything from managing gyms to healthy eating programmes, to medical related services such as flu vaccinations and cholesterol screenings – and activities were designed to foster a culture of health and wellbeing in workplaces. “Then Covid hit,” says laya healthcare’s head of health and wellbeing, Sinéad Proos.

Proos understands that keeping health and wellbeing centre stage is vital to employee wellbeing right now.

After all, “This is not a financial crisis,” she points out. “What put us into this crisis is health. That’s why we feel so passionate about it. But so much of it is actually in our control.”

Straight away the company, like so many others, was faced with a daunting task – how to ensure workplace wellbeing when the workplace has undergone a seismic shift.

“The challenge for us was how to service our programmes when we can’t go on site, at a time when these programmes are needed more than ever,” she explains.

The result has been a massive organisational pivot that has seen the health insurer roll out its health and wellbeing programmes online.

“Because our GP consultations were already available online, digital was something we were already comfortable with, so we needed to figure out how to service mental health and wellbeing digitally too,” Proos says.

“The whole reason for this research, which is the biggest piece of research laya healthcare has ever undertaken, is because we felt we had to understand the pain points that exist not just for employers, but for employees.”

Mental wellbeing challenge

So what did it find? Unsurprisingly, the research identified that everything has changed and the upheaval for both employees and employers has been seismic. The survey shows that anxiety is now a major issue, and rightly so, Proos reckons. “There is nothing normal about what we are going through. It is the most abnormal thing in our lifetime.

“We are living alongside a virus that limits our social interaction. What we found through the research is that it is absolutely normal to be anxious and nervous about the lack of all the things that are fundamental to being human such as being social, and keeping in touch,” she says.

“The big challenge for HR executives was how to give people the flexibility they wanted, while at the same time, ensuring they would see the same level of productivity and leadership,” says Proos.

Anxious normal

It’s not the new normal, it’s the ‘anxious normal’ she says, “and not just for employees but for employers who want to phase people back into the office safely.”

Employees remain nervous. Of more than 1,000 surveyed, one third consider themselves to be more vulnerable to the coronavirus. “They have an underlying condition such as asthma, diabetes or a heart condition that makes them more nervous about opening up their social connections,” Proos explains.

For employers it’s important to listen to what employees are saying right now. “If there is a reticence there, this is something employers need to take into consideration,” she says.

But the progress of the pandemic is having an impact on people’s emotions too.

“It was easier for us all to go into lockdown at the beginning because there was that sense that we are all in this together,” she says. Now, with some regions going into second lockdowns, that is no longer the case. Restrictions and guidelines that appear to be more “open to interpretation”, don’t help, she says.

As the days shorten, we’ll be spending more time indoors, adding to unease. But Covid-19 is putting health and wellbeing centre stage. “It has made us more determined to ask; ‘How am I going to keep healthy?’ People’s lifestyle and the choices that they make will help them get through this,” Proos points out.

“We are living alongside Covid. It is the anxious normal. This is our life now and we don’t know how long it is going to last. It’s about how we nourish ourselves not just in terms of diet, but mentally and physically, and how we manage our social connections, all these every day choices are the things we can control.”

Digital delivery

Laya healthcare has been helping member organisations since the first lockdown, launching digital seminars in March with experts providing practical tips about everything from the ergonomics of working from home to building resilience.

Since the start of April, members have had unlimited access to online GP consultations and the prescription service, resulting in a 250 per cent increase in utilisation. It is clear that our willingness to engage with tele-medicine has increased dramatically, and laya healthcare members can avail of unrestricted access to physiotherapists and access to health and wellbeing experts too. The success of all these initiatives shows that people are keener to engage with health and wellbeing, Proos confirms. Employers need to be too.

To this end, HR practitioners need to “get under the hood, have those frank and open conversations, and really find out what is going on with people,” she says. “It’s about listening, about followship more than leadership.”

Learn from industry experts on how to keep your workplace well with laya healthcare’s free resource, part of a series which will guide you in supporting your workforce with flexible working and relevant digital wellbeing programmes. Download Future-proofing Health and Wellbeing, the first of a series of playbooks, available now.
Insurance provided by Elips Insurance Limited trading as Laya Healthcare. Laya Healthcare Limited, trading as Laya Healthcare and Laya Life, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Unrestricted benefits are available until the end of December 2020. Fair usage policy applies.