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Focus on Mental Health and Stress Management - Dealing with Uncertainty in a COVID World

In this on-going period of enforced social isolation many businesses have continued to trade successfully, but to maintain staff morale, engagement, and productivity they have had to increasingly focus on employee lifestyle management.

In this on-going period of enforced social isolation many businesses have continued to trade successfully, but to maintain staff morale, engagement, and productivity they have had to increasingly focus on employee lifestyle management. The emphasis for line managers has been on looking at how they can help employees lead healthier lives to fight illnesses such as stress, anxiety and mental fatigue that can arise with remote working. Many employers are now taking the support that they provide further by not just providing a traditional employee assistance program but by enhancing the support services that they offer to better enable employees to manage and ensure their quality of life.

Support in an uncertain world

An essential component of lifestyle modification is exercise. The importance of exercise is not adequately understood or appreciated by people with anxiety, stress, or mental health illnesses. Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression (1). Improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress.

Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

 

Supporting exercise through a cycle to work scheme

The Cycle to Work scheme, is a government initiative available for all private, public and charity sector businesses, and allows employees to hire bicycles and equipment through salary sacrifice.

 

Why should employers provide the cycle to work scheme to employees?

The scheme is a great way for employers to help employees to stay healthy and save money through tax and National Insurance contributions. The employee will have the opportunity to choose from a huge range of bikes from national chains as well as independent stores. The cost of the bike will be paid via salary sacrifice, normally over a 12 or 18-month period, with end of hire options, including a zero-cost extended hire option to maximise the savings achieved.

The scheme helps employees to save money on fuel, car parking, train, and bus fares as well as saving time waiting for public transport. Cycle to Work also helps employees to reduce their carbon footprint, and by promoting alternative travel, employers demonstrate their status as a caring and green employer.

 

Lifestyle management pro-active steps

Employers can create their own health campaign to communicate important wellbeing messages to employees with an informative, ready-made wellbeing programme.  From healthy eating, alcohol, and sleep, to staying healthy on shift, men’s, and women’s health, and coping with change or pressure, there is a wide variety of topics to choose from to suit the diverse demographics of your people.

 

Health calendar

Engage with your employees by providing them with a targeted health and wellbeing awareness programme.  Benefit providers can access wellbeing experts who will work with businesses to create a 12-month wellbeing campaign that can be rolled out to staff.  Each month a toolkit is sent to employees containing everything they need to help them take the actions they need.

 

How does the scheme work?

You can choose a topic to focus on each month and tailor your campaign according to your business, seasonal events, awareness days and national campaigns.  Each month you will receive your wellbeing toolkit containing campaign materials and a communications pack to distribute via the channels that you use within your business.  Your employees will also be signposted to free national support agencies associated with the monthly topic should they require further help or advice.

 

Wellbeing coaching

Employees can be encouraged to make positive lifestyle changes through Wellbeing Coaching.  This can consist of interactive groups and 1:1 Wellbeing Coaching workshops which can cover a wide range of health and wellbeing topics and issues that affect the personal and working lives of employees.

At Busy Bees Benefits all our group coaching workshops and 1:1 sessions are delivered online via Zoom and are designed to be highly interactive and delivered by a specialist wellbeing coach.  Workshops are practical and create thought-provoking discussions for employees to share their thoughts, tips, and ideas with each other.

From nutrition, health, and emotional wellbeing to coping mechanisms and managing work life balance, all our Wellbeing Coaching topics help employees to live well, think well and work well.

The optimum number of attendees for workshops is 12-25 employees, however, numbers can be tailored to accommodate an employer’s requirements.  Coaching content can also be customised to the employee’s and organisation’s needs.  Wellbeing Coaching sessions can also signpost employees to relevant support services as well as internal services and HR policies that a business already provides.

 

Live Webinars – Making use of digital technology

A simple and effective way to encourage employees to make changes to their lifestyle is to run live Wellbeing Webinars. Wellbeing Webinars cover an extensive range of health and wellbeing topics and can be accessible to all employees in multiple locations as they are delivered online.

Taking part in Wellbeing Webinars will help employees to develop greater self-awareness of their own health and wellbeing and their lifestyle.  They will gain practical tips and actions that they can incorporate into their lives to make proactive changes.

Each live coaching webinar is hosted by a wellbeing subject expert and lasts for an hour, which includes time for Q&As and discussion.  An employer simply needs to select a topic of their choice, promote the webinar to their employees and book them onto their webinar sessions.  A summary handout comes with each webinar that can be circulated to employees.

Wellbeing Webinar topics help employees to live well, think well and work well and include nutrition, health, coping mechanisms, emotional wellbeing, managing work life balance and many more.  Bespoke webinars can also be created to meet the specific needs of a business and their people.

The coronavirus pandemic is making business act with a greater sense of purpose and urgency to focus on health at work, which means that health and wellbeing issues are now at center stage of many employers thinking.

During what will no doubt continue to be challenging economic times where discretionary spending on employees will be under constant scrutiny, let’s hope that wellbeing takes its position as a top business priority in helping to manage employees, health and risk.

Notes:

  1. Penedo, F.J. & Dahn, J.R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 18 (2), 189–193.

 

Wojciech Dochan

Managing Director, Busy Bees Benefits

Provider of the SmartHive Platform

Smart Hive is an integrated, cost effective employee benefits platform that provides your employees with access to all their health and wellbeing benefits in one place. Talk to a member of our team today or book your very own demonstration.