28 May 2021
Employee Benefits in a post-Covid workplace
No one could have predicted the pandemic’s impact on how it has made employers look at how they structure their workplaces to enable workplace wellbeing. We find ourselves in a shifting workplace landscape, very different to the one of early 2020. Striving to help employees, while maintaining productivity, has never been so important.
Paul Mardlin, Employee Benefits Director at Centor Insurance and Risk Management, reflects on how the workplace has changed since the pandemic, and how employee benefits can positively impact the three pillars of employee wellbeing: mental, physical and financial, at a time when it is imperative to do so.
Attitudes to Wellbeing
Back in 2017, less than half (41%) of organisations had a strategy to support emotional wellbeing, and only 21% for financial wellbeing. In pre-Covid 2020, both had risen significantly – to 68% and 51% respectively. 1
Given the impact of the pandemic, this extra commitment to employees’ wellbeing has never been more essential. An Office for National Statistics survey, conducted in October 2020, revealed that 72% of adults in the UK were somewhat or very worried about the effect of Covid-19 on their lives. Of those affected, 64% were worried about their future, and 63% felt stressed or anxious 2. Understandably, a third (33%) of UK adults were also concerned about their finances3.
These feelings also resonate in the workplace: 53% of employers believe Covid-19 will have a moderate or large negative impact on employee wellbeing4.
Importance of Mental Health
Pre-Covid, mental health disorders accounted for almost a quarter of the UK’s ill-health5. And even before the pandemic, it was on the rise.
According to the CIPD’s 2020 Health and wellbeing report, 37% of employers saw stress-related absence increase over the previous year, while 60% saw common mental health conditions like stress and anxiety rise. Mental ill-health was also the most common cause of long-term absence, with 59% of organisations including it in their top three causes6.
At the beginning of 2020, Deloitte estimated that one-sixth of UK workers were experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, costing UK businesses £42-45bn a year through lost days and reduced productivity7.
When asked about their general mental health since the pandemic, 43% of employees said it had deteriorated, rising to 52% for those with an existing mental health issue 8. While more organisations are taking steps to promote good mental wellbeing at work (70% in 2020 vs 31% in 2016) 9, it is clear that employees need even greater support in the current climate.
Importance of Physical Health
Before Covid, Public Health England revealed 63% of adults in England were overweight, with similar figures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland 10.
Excess weight is a risk factor for a wide range of chronic diseases, including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many cancers. It also increases the likelihood of an early death 11. In the working environment, 20% of employees believe their weight has a negative impact on their job or career, and 61% of these blame their weight for low energy levels that affect their productivity12.
Almost half (47%) of employees believe their job prevents them from losing weight, with 49% blaming skipped gym visits because of longer working hours. A similar number (45%) believe that work-related stress prompts them to turn to unhealthy food options, while 40% blame their sedentary job.13
Like mental health, physical health has suffered as a result of the pandemic. In July 2020, the Covid Symptom Study app showed 29% of people surveyed had gained weight since March 202014. The app also revealed that obese people (with a BMI above 30) are at least 20% more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19 than those with lower BMIs 15.
Importance of Financial Health
Difficulties with financial issues can also have a detrimental effect on a person’s physical and mental health. Conversely this can affect employee’s performance in the workplace. According to the Nudge Global’s survey, 16 Over half (52%) of employees worry about their finances once a week, with 25% 17 believing that there is a direct correlation between financial stress and their mental health. Concerningly, only 7% of employees felt that they could discuss this in their workplace. The survey echoes these issues, outlining that only 67% of employees felt their organisation offered relevant support.
This makes difficult reading; especially when coupled with the fact that 22% of people were either already facing significant financial difficulties before Covid-19 hit 18, and since the pandemic, 28% of employees have thought that their financial security has worsened, this percentage rises to 55% for furloughed staff 19.
The negative impact on business can’t be underestimated. 41% of employers have seen employees’ financial issues affect their business negatively – up from just 15% pre-Covid, while a staggering 78% of organisations were concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their staff’s financial wellbeing 20.
How can Employee Benefits support wellbeing at work?
Pre-Covid, around 80% of employers recognised how supporting their workforce’s mental wellbeing benefited their business with increased loyalty, engagement and productivity topping the list of reasons why21.
Encouragingly following the impact of Covid-19 on wellbeing, 42% of organisations have already made, or plan to make, significant changes to their benefit programmes, while 23% are looking to improve voluntary benefits and perks 22.
Taking into consideration the data above, how do businesses decide which benefits to implement or change? To begin with it’s worth thinking about your employee demographic. Different employees value different benefits, at different stages of their lives, so we advise you to consider offering a range of benefits that people can choose from. Some benefits also come with built-in support tools and resources, often to help enhance wellbeing, which can help both employees – and employers.
Life insurance, critical illness insurance and dental insurance can all give employees and their families financial protection against unforeseen circumstances, and the peace of mind that goes with it.
Certain Health Cash Plans not only reimburse employees for smaller medical matters, but also offer access to wellbeing and mindfulness apps and resources.
Some employee benefits also come with access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which can include a helpline, allowing employees to talk about their mental, physical or financial health concerns in confidence.
Retail discounts and savings schemes can not only support financial wellbeing by offering a range of savings on everyday spending, they can include access to newsletters and apps providing wellbeing tips and financial advice.
Why Centor Insurance and Risk Management?
At Centor, we have been helping employers navigate the Employee Benefit landscape for decades; we understand the most important asset of a business is its staff. 23
Working in partnership with our clients, we take a holistic approach which identifies the key challenges and solutions required to enable:
- · Staff recruitment and retainment
- · Sickness and absence management
- · Ensuring that contractual obligations are met
- · Implementing positive approaches for healthy bodies and minds
Our passion for helping our clients means we have an enviable 98% client retention rate, year on year. Something we are incredibly proud of. Clients have a choice, and we work hard to ensure that that choice is Centor.
This article has been written in collaboration with Unum, a leading employee benefits provider offering financial protection through the workplace including: Income Protection, Life insurance, Critical Illness, and Dental cover. Unum is committed to workplace wellbeing for both employees and employers. They have a wide range of tools designed to help businesses create or enhance their employee wellbeing strategy, including Help@hand, which offers five integrated wellbeing services in one app, a Mental Health Pathway and Wellbeing Calendar.
If you would like to know more about employee benefits in a shifting landscape, contact or follow Paul Mardlin to get and share industry insights, thought-leadership articles, invitations to webinars, along with wellbeing tools and resources.
Employee Benefits Director
Centor Insurance and Risk Management Ltd
Tel: 07909 974443
1 Aon UK Benefits & Trends Survey 2020
2 ONS: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/bulletins/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsongreatbritain/9october2020
3 Mental Health Foundation The COVID-19 pandemic, financial inequality and mental health 2020
4 Willis Towers Watson Covid-19 Benefits Survey Report UK 2020
5 RSPH Public mental health Evidence practice and commissioning May 2019
6 & 9 CIPD Health and wellbeing report 2020
10 & 11 Public Health England:
12 & 13 Willis Towers Watson Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Barometer 2019. Attitudes of UK employees
14 & 15 https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/lockdown-weight-gain
16 & 17 Nudge-Elephant In The Room 07 Sep 2020
18 The Policy Institute Life under lockdown – coronavirus in the UK 9 April 2020
19 CIPD https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/trends/goodwork/covid-impact
21 GRiD Group Risk Benefits Survey – June 2020
22 Willis Towers Watson 2020 Covid-19 Benefits Survey
23 – Centor has been independent recognised for its commitment to its staff by Investors in People and Great Places to Work accolades.