The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns will have a significant impact on the future health and wellbeing of employees, a new report suggests, further highlighting the importance of having an employee wellbeing strategy.
According to the Vitality report, Healthy Hybrid: A Blueprint for Business, employees’ will experience deteriorated physical and mental health going forward, as well as have new expectations when it comes to working arrangements.
With homeworking having become the norm for many employees since lockdowns were introduced in the UK, the amount of physical activity individuals have been undertaking has declined by 28%. Such sedentary lifestyles, the report says, are leading to an ‘ergonomic timebomb', where people risk increased back and shoulder injuries and pain.
Meanwhile, employee mental health is also worsening, with 50% of those working from home reporting increased anxiety about returning to the office. As a result, 85% of homeworkers said how companies view employee health and wellbeing will be a significant factor when thinking about their future career prospects.
[Related reading: The Importance Of Health And Wellbeing In The Workplace]
With an enormous number of employees working from home since lockdown restrictions were implemented, it has highlighted to many how businesses can still effectively operate even with a remote workforce.
The Vitality report authors say this will cause a hybrid working expectation gap, with just 16% of homeworkers indicating a preference to return to their places of work full time. However, one in three employees polled believe their employers will want them at a physical work location full time once the dust has settled.
Speaking about the findings of the report, Neville Koopowitz, chief executive of Vitality UK, said: "Now is the time for businesses to reset their approach to health and wellbeing and set themselves up for a ‘healthy hybrid' future.”
He added that “corporate Britain” needs to focus on employee health and wellbeing, even saying that it should be on the company risk register.
The Vitality report was researched in partnership with the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and is based on research among more than 1,000 homeworkers conducted during the third lockdown in January; wellbeing data from the Vitality Programme; a series of interviews with leading CEOs and business leaders; and RSA analysis of key research relating to workplace trends.
The pandemic has demonstrated to employers and employees that flexible working is possible and it will not result in lower productivity as long as it is done correctly. At the start of the pandemic, all organisations had to rush to get employees working from home and many were not set up for this.
We have heard numerous stories of people working from cars, dressing tables and kitchen worktops. This is going to drive MSK and mental health issues. Physical and mental health need to be considered equally. Whilst it is right for companies to continue to embrace flexible working where possible, it requires investment. An employee wellbeing strategy will help support all of this.