2021 workplace wellbeing predictions and priorities

Organisations understand they must consider the health and safety of their employees and as we continue to come to the end of 2020 – with pandemic restrictions still in place- employers are aware they need to take greater responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their staff.

Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health looks at how the nation has collectively experienced the challenges to mental wellbeing brought about by the current pandemic. Here he says that if we act now, and act together, we can use this shared experience of distress to bring about change.

At Nuffield Health, our latest research is aimed at helping businesses to encourage empowering conversations around mental health, so more people access the support they need, earlier. Now presents an opportunity to change the nature and content of our language around mental health and mental fitness.

We believe most organisations, where possible, will look to bring employees back on a phased return to offices in 2021. However, a recent poll revealed when lockdowns were eased, many Brits felt “uncomfortable” going back to their normal lives but worryingly, a recent survey revealed only 15 per cent of employers surveyed staff this year to get an understanding of their needs during this difficult time.

We think this will be a greater priority in 2021 and there will be a bigger focus on the extension of support businesses offer their employees on a remote basis. Previous workplace benefits will, post-COVID-19, be a minimum expectation.

2020’s pandemic may have recalibrated, rather than reset employee expectations regarding perks they can expect from an employer. Many benefits focused on the physical office space may no longer be as relevant to staff post-COVID-19. In fact, most employees will now probably want continued access to remote working opportunities instead.

We will start to see a blend of physical and remote services offered to employees to ensure they continue to receive the same support they did in the physical office. This might include desktop assessments, to enable suitable ergonomic set up while at home, as well as access to remote services such as virtual GP or online emotional wellbeing services.

With the introduction of the UK furlough scheme, employees will expect their roles to be protected, should further peaks occur and there will be an increased focus on financial education. Money worries can have an enormous effect on mental wellbeing, and be both the cause and effect of mental health problems.

Considering this, employee expectations for mental health support from businesses will be, overall, much higher, as many reported experiencing distressing emotions, poor concentration, lack of motivation and stress, while working from home during lockdown.

Immediate and ongoing mental health resources, which can be offered to staff remotely, will become more accessible, including increased counselling options, and support through services like EAPs. Other types of virtual therapy we see growing in popularity might include interpersonal therapy, and access to psychiatric assessments.

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