Shift to hybrid working – how to manage the impact on employee health and wellbeing

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Russ Piper, CEO, Sovereign Health Care

By Russ Piper, chief executive, Sovereign Health Care

The pandemic forced many businesses to move overnight to new ways of working. As a result, over the last 18 months, hybrid working – a mixture of workplace-based and remote/home working – has become a norm and, for many, this is set to continue. A recent ACAS report revealed nearly half (49%) of employers expect an increase in staff working remotely all week. While this is seen by many as a welcome move, it also raises new challenges for businesses.

Hybrid working offers many benefits. As well as the potential for reduced overheads, ACAS reports that hybrid working can help attract and retain staff and increase productivity by enabling better work life balance. However, it also raises new challenges in terms of looking after the health and wellbeing of employees whose working environment you likely have little control over, and who you may see in person only occasionally.

Along with making sure employees have a good physical work environment that protects their eye, neck and back health, perhaps the biggest challenge for us as employers is looking after our people’s mental health remotely. According to mental health charity, Mind, loneliness and isolation have been a struggle for many employees throughout the pandemic. Although positive in many respects, the move to hybrid working could prolong this feeling for some. To manage this, it is essential to make it easy for employees to connect with each other. Examples include providing coordinated office working schedules where teams work in the office on the same day, collaborative workspaces and regular calls with colleagues and managers.

Hybrid working also creates new pressures for managers, for whom managing people remotely may be a new experience. Identifying the signs that someone is struggling with their mental health may be more difficult when they are working remotely. At Sovereign, we worked with ACAS to provide our managers with training to help them identify and address potential mental health issues within their teams. Mind also offers similar tools and training for employers.

A straightforward but impactful way to help employees proactively manage both physical and mental wellbeing is to offer a health care cash plan and employee assistance programme (EAP) within benefits packages. As well as offering these to our customers, we also provide them to our own staff as part of our health and wellbeing support.

Significantly cheaper than traditional private medical insurance, cash plans are an affordable way to help employees with the cost of their health and wellbeing and cover both NHS and private treatments. These plans pay employees cash back towards everyday health costs and more specialist treatments, and offer additional benefits such as a 24-hour GP service. EAPs provide employees with confidential support, assistance and counselling for a range of work-related and personal issues.

These affordable, impactful measures give businesses a straightforward way to help harness the benefits and reduce the risks of moving to hybrid working. To find out more about these and other steps that we, as businesses, can take to manage employee health and wellbeing, read our practical new guide at sovereignhealthcare.co.uk/business.

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