The world is still feeling the impacts of a global pandemic – a public health emergency that has changed our working lives forever. In addition to a substantial death toll, this crisis has put significant strain on employers, the economy and our mental health. Though the virus itself will eventually be contained, its effects may last for a decade.
Wellbeing has become a priority for every organisation
A short time after the Coronavirus was first reported in the UK, employee wellbeing became something that every employer had to start taking seriously. The significant changes to our personal and professional lives had immediate negative effects on all of us. Eighty-four percent of UK adults say they were worried, leading to nearly half of adults reporting high levels of anxiety and more than 50% reporting an effect on their wellbeing.
The lockdown also exacerbated an already growing problem of loneliness. According to the ONS, in May 2020, one in 20 people said they felt lonely, with young people twice as likely to suffer with loneliness during the lockdown. Half of those who said their wellbeing was affected because of lockdown say they experienced loneliness. Results like these led to the formation of the International Covid-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration. Forty-two researchers from around the world have come together because of concerns about the long-term impact lockdown will have on mental health. Long before the virus reached our lives, UK mental health services have been strained and employees were turning to their employers for support.
As a result of the pandemic, more than two thirds of organisations have introduced new wellbeing benefits to support employees. However, MetLife discovered that 41% of employees felt that their employer did not offer benefits or programmes that helped support or improve their wellbeing during this challenging time. Three quarters of employees say that their stress and overall wellbeing would have been improved if their employers had offered more health benefits and programmes.
An analysis of pre-Coronavirus data from the end of 2019 compared to data from April 2020 shows us that employees are now far more likely to believe their employers have a responsibility to address employee health and wellbeing, particularly when it comes to financial wellbeing.
Recessions have been shown to have significant negative effects on the health and mortality of populations. Following the 2008 financial crisis, changes to employment had strong effects on chronic health – particularly mental health. Researchers have found that a 1% fall in employment leads to a 2% increase in the prevalence of chronic illnesses. For up to two years after large scale drops in employment, mental health conditions will continue to rise. It’s estimated that if a similar recession to that of 2008 follows the pandemic, the number of working age adults with poor mental health will rise by half a million. Harvard economist Kenneth S Rogoff told The New York Times in April that this recession was: “shaping up as the deepest dive on record for the global economy for over 100 years”.
For decades after large-scale disasters, human trauma is not only felt by survivors and their families, but also by those people on the periphery. The negative effects of this pandemic will be seen in the lives of those that never even contracted the virus.
LinkedIn found that social media posts by employers related to Coronavirus got more attention than other posts – especially when they were focussed on how employers were supporting their people. Some of the most successful LinkedIn updates during the pandemic were the ones where employers showed how they were helping their staff through the situation, where they offered enhanced sick pay or furlough support and how that organisation was helping society with things like donations and the manufacture of hand sanitiser.
Brands will be defined by how they handled the virus. A major study of 35,000 global consumers by Kantar found that people were looking for explicit evidence that brands supported their staff during the virus. Almost 80% said they believe employee health has been a key priority for organisations during the pandemic.
Consumers and employees have kept a close eye on those organisations that stepped up and supported their staff during this difficult time. As the effects of the virus continue to ripple through society for years to come, the majority of people will want to work for an organisation that not only shows how they support the wellbeing of their people, but that can prove they stepped up and made a difference when it counted.
Benefex is supporting its customers with award-winning HR technology, empowering employees with the education and tools they need to make better health and wellbeing decisions.
Find out more at www.hellobenefex.com