Five key wellbeing themes for 2021

The CIPD’s annual health and wellbeing report, in partnership with Simply Health, investigates the key trends in workplace wellbeing this year, as well as the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had

The CIPD and Simplyhealth’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report has been sharing trends and insights into workplace wellbeing for more than two decades. Our latest report, surveying more than 650 UK organisations, examines key wellbeing themes – crucially, this year, through the lens of the pandemic.

For over a year now, employers have been dealing with the huge challenges presented by Covid-19. While employee wellbeing was already steadily rising up the corporate agenda, the last 12 months have really thrust it centre stage. With this in mind, we explore five of the most topical themes from this year’s findings.

1. More than two-fifths of businesses are ‘extremely concerned’ about the impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health

Mental health is top of mind for HR professionals. With an increase in concerns over mental health due to lockdown restrictions and social isolation, organisations have been looking to the tools available to help identify areas of concern and offer effective solutions to their workforce.

More than 80 per cent of organisations are using employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to identify and reduce stress in the workplace. By analysing anonymous data, employers can see what concerns are emerging among employees. For example, stress, financial worries, mental ill-health or managing work-life balance. This also provides the opportunity to implement additional support schemes, signposts to further support and schedule internal communications that highlight the services available through an EAP.

2. Financial wellbeing receives the least attention from organisations

Financial wellbeing is consistently the poor relation and continues to be ranked as a low priority year on year. Yet financial worries can be an enormous source of stress for employees, which can easily impact their mental wellbeing and their performance at work. Less than half of organisations report that their activities are designed to promote financial wellbeing.

Changes in circumstances through furlough, redundancies, working patterns and additional home working costs have caused a dramatic shift in financial situations. 

As we look at life beyond the pandemic, it will be essential for employers to consider financial wellbeing as part of their overall strategy.

3. Unhealthy practices such as presenteeism and leavism are on the rise

Many employees have moved into full-time remote working, which presents many new challenges. It may be more difficult to switch off from work when there’s no longer a clear divide between the workplace and home. When people are at home, it may also be more likely for them to work when unwell.

An overwhelming 84 per cent of respondents have observed presenteeism, where employees continue working during a period of sickness, both in the workplace (75 per cent) and while working at home (77 per cent) over the past 12 months. 

And 70 per cent have observed some form of leaveism, such as working outside contracted hours or using holiday entitlement to work. With remote working likely to continue for some time, it’s important for businesses to identify and manage these practices that can be detrimental to health and wellbeing.

4. Almost three in five employees cite workload as a cause of stress

Work-related stress is a big contributor to mental ill-health, so it’s essential employers can identify the main contributory factors to take appropriate action. With workloads and management style consistently cited as leading causes of stress at work, managers must be provided with the tools they need to support employees in a meaningful way.

Less than half of organisations train line managers to support staff with mental ill-health. Therefore, it’s not surprising less than two in five agree managers are confident to have sensitive discussions and signpost people to expert sources of help if needed. As we face more challenges in the coming months, managers will continue to be invaluable in understanding and aiding employees with stress.

5. Proactive updates to benefit offerings are maximising employee support

To ensure a benefits package offers relevant support, it’s vital that businesses regularly review their offering. This enables them to identify areas for improvement to help their workforce stay healthy. 

This year has seen an increase in access to counselling services, with 74 per cent of employers providing this service, up from 72 per cent in the previous year. EAPs are also being offered by more organisations, with an increase of 6 per cent since last year.

With such dramatic shifts in the way we work and the fallout from the pandemic, it’s very likely that employees will be struggling with many areas such as mental health, work-life balance and finances. Ensuring services are available that cover a range of issues, paired with effective communication, will ensure employees are able to access the support they need.

Discover more of this year’s top wellbeing trends by downloading a free copy of the CIPD and Simplyhealth’s 2021 Health and Wellbeing at Work report.

All findings taken from CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 report.