Wellbeing will remain atop the corporate agenda for many years as the world has “only seen the tip of the iceberg” from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health and wellbeing benefits are also likely to evolve from reactive and risk-based to focus on mental health and wider wellbeing, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) Future of Work conference heard.
Speaking at the conference, Justine Cooper, head of Brook Graham consultants, said she believed the increased importance on providing health and wellbeing support for employees would continue.
Cooper highlighted the immediate escalation in importance of workplace health and wellbeing when the pandemic hit, and said she was optimistic the subject “will remain very much at the top of the agenda”.
Cooper noted research reports and other data showing how far behind health systems were on issues such as cancer diagnosis and treatments.
“We have only seen the tip of the iceberg in the last 15 months in terms of the impact on people. We have got years ahead of us for thinking about the true impact from a health and wellbeing perspective,” she said.
“So I think the more opportunity we have to raise our awareness and understand in true terms that will ensure wellbeing stays at the top of the agenda.”
Evolving benefits offerings a key differentiator
And Cooper added that the pandemic had also shifted employee perspectives and those valuing health and wellbeing benefits would act as a real talent tool
“People are much clearer about what’s important to them and organisations that are person-led and really value their people are going to be those organisations that are able to attract and retain talent,” she continued.
“It’s going to be a key differentiator. People are looking for firms to demonstrate commitment and that they value their people.
“Organisations are going to have to do better than just spin a few lines to prove it.”
Cooper also acknowledged that how employers approached their wellbeing strategies and benefits would likely change.
“The scope of wellbeing may look quite different,” she said.
“Perhaps previously where a wellbeing strategy might have been reactive or risk based, all with good intentions, now we’re seeing organisations with a much greater focus on mental wellbeing and considering additional and new dimensions for the first time within that broader definition of wellbeing.”
‘Ripples we didn’t expect’
Michael Jenkins, CEO of Expert Humans, joined Cooper for the session and agreed with much of her expectations for the future severity of global health.
“There’s a domino effect creating ripples we didn’t fully appreciate,” he said.
“That’s going to call for a recognition that mental health issues are something we need to tackle and that was the case even before Covid, but I think the need for resilience of people and organisations is going to come to the fore.
“I think a post-pandemic wellbeing initiative is going to have to speak to that.”
Jenkins also cited research which had found that anxiety had overtaken depression as the most highly reported mental health symptom during the pandemic and addressing this through corporate strategies would be vital.
This point was echoed by CIPD commercial and marketing director Tony Osude who was hosting the session.
“Talking to our members over last 18 months, anxiety alongside wellness was one of the symptoms they had picked out right across the workforce and how they might need to manage that,” he said.
“That had been bubbling away underneath the surface for quite some time and it’s right now been brought to the fore.”