Prioritise wellbeing to get the economy back on its feet

When lockdown began last March, businesses focused on essentials to remain operational. IT systems, equipment and comms were prioritised. Employee health and wellbeing whilst working from home was rarely considered.

60% of people in our April 2020 Working from Home and Wellbeing survey were working from makeshift stations like kitchen tables, breakfast bars or the couch and this was damaging their musculoskeletal health. Twelve months on, the problem still exists. The Royal Society for Public Health’s recent study showed 39% of respondents suffering with muscle and joint problems.

It's not just physical health either. Mental wellbeing is affected, with MIND reporting over 50% of adults feeling their mental health has deteriorated in lockdown. During our DSE Health and Wellbeing online sessions, people discuss feelings of isolation, struggling to switch off and the guilt of managing work and family commitments.

Post pandemic working will be different for every business. Some clients are booking our hands-on YOLO Wellbeing experience for April, others for September, depending on when they plan to return to the workplace. We continue to book online sessions for clients who will continue working from home for the foreseeable future.

In a recent Think Tank event we attended through Wellbeing Lancashire, discussing the impact of COVID-19 on jobs and health in Lancashire. The link between our health and economy was recognised before COVID-19 but the pandemic has made it more obvious.

The global pandemic triggered a stress response where we collectively went into fight-or-flight mode; to deal with the immediacy of the crisis. A year on, this pro-longed period of elevated stress is causing pandemic fatigue, which is having a wide reaching impact on our collective mental wellbeing.

Business leaders are exhausted, employees are fragile and there are 47,000 people on furlough, who will need to be engaged back into the workplace or supported into new employment.

Where businesses recognise the connection between poor employee wellbeing and the impact on business health, we see the motivation to address it.

But if your first thought is, wellbeing is an unaffordable luxury; think of a runner with a sprained ankle. An injured athlete would not compete in a race, or if they did, they would not be performing at their best. If your employees are suffering from fatigue and stress there is a higher risk of them taking time off, or at best limping along in a state of presenteeism.

The 2018 NHSA Health for Wealth report identified 30% of the £4 per person per hour gap in productivity (or £1.20 per hour) between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of England is due to ill-health. A separate 2020 report by Deloitte identified that every £1 investment employers make in supporting employee mental health, returns £5 in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

Wellbeing services will need to play a huge role in helping to support businesses as they get our economy back on its feet. Looking at the companies we are working with I’m thrilled to say they’re thriving. They recognise that happy and healthy employees have a crucial role to play in business success.