Over the last year, many companies across the UK have responded to the need for wellbeing support; adapting their offering and implementing new strategies that, as well as helping to safeguard employee wellbeing at the time, are fit for a post-pandemic world.
We don’t often read the words ‘positive impact’ and ‘pandemic’ together in the same sentence but for some companies, much-needed wellbeing strategies and processes put in place to support staff during an unprecedented year are now embedded for the long-term because of the positive impact and uptake.
Here, Luke Bullen, CEO, UK & Ireland at Gympass, the world’s largest corporate wellbeing platform, shares his insight on what learnings we can take from lockdown. We also hear from Gympass partners, Co-op and Santander, about how the pandemic has influenced their future wellbeing strategies.
“As well as new thinking on working remotely, the pandemic has brought about a welcome change in views on the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace,” says Luke.
“A recent report revealed that Covid-19 has brought about a change in business leaders’ attitude towards mental health, and research earlier in the pandemic showed that more than 90% of employers have introduced measures to support employee wellbeing. For example, our corporate partners see the value in Gympass for their employees as our digital platform is designed to nurture all-round healthy habits, and includes mental health, tailored nutrition plans, meditation and relaxation programmes alongside a diverse range of online workouts.”
For Gympass partner, Co-op, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, colleague wellbeing has always been a priority, and support put in place both before and during the pandemic has provided insight for the future. Paul Caudwell, Co-op’s Health Wellbeing Manager, explains:
“The basic principle is that what we do needs to be responsive to the emerging and changing needs of our colleagues. Communicating to personal email addresses was previously not allowed but the Covid-19 pandemic helped to unlock this ability and it’s something we will continue. We have a great product offering and will keep talking to colleagues about it. The pandemic has also reinforced that we need to be flexible in general. We accept that whilst we sign-up to a 12-month budget, underpinned by a clear plan, this has to have the flexibility to adapt, and we shouldn’t be afraid to change direction if colleagues need it.”
Gympass partner, Santander UK, also puts employee wellbeing at the heart of its operations; achieving “Excellence in Wellbeing” accreditation from Great Places to Work for the support offered to its 21,000 colleagues. The company will continue to offer a number of its wellbeing solutions brought in ahead of the first lockdown.
Damien Shieber, Santander’s Head of Culture and Experience and a member of Business in the Community Wellbeing Leadership Team, explains: “Our support covers physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing. For example, our Wellbeing Hub, provides information on looking after your mental wellbeing when working at home, wellbeing webinars and a direct link to our employee assistance programme. It has been used by colleagues over 95,000 times. And our ‘wellbeing hour’, led by our executive committee and senior leaders, promotes a meeting-free hour, between 1-2 pm each day. This is to help colleagues focus on their wellbeing, away from their screens. These are just two of the initiatives we implemented to support colleagues.”
Over the last year, like a number of companies, Gympass has adapted its offering to meet the needs of both customers and employees: “For customers, we moved to a digital model so people could still benefit from fitness and wellbeing solutions, and for the Gympass team, we kept that sense of community through remote sessions where we discussed wellbeing and shared activities that we could do to stay well and motivated during the lockdown.
“We will certainly continue a number of the initiatives we brought in over the last year because of the level of engagement and the benefits of bringing people together that even in ‘normal’ times may not meet,” says Luke.
Luke recognises the significant efforts companies are making to support employee wellbeing but warns of complacency: “Whilst the majority of employers offer some form of wellbeing support, less than half have a dedicated wellbeing strategy in place, according to recent research. As workplaces start to open up in the near future, and people’s work patterns change again, it is vital that employees have access to a robust programme to help safeguard wellbeing and aid productivity.”
- The Covid-19 pandemic has been responsible for a generational shift in executives’ attitudes to mental health. Bupa Global, Executive Wellbeing Index
- 94% of employers have introduced measures to support employee wellbeing. Wade Macdonald and Doyle Clayton
- Less than half of businesses (44%) have a wellbeing strategy in place. Aon, UK benefits and trends survey 2021