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Supporting employee wellbeing in turbulent times

The Work Revolution Virtual Conference – Insights from our panel discussion

Wellbeing|Health and Benefits|Employee Engagement

December 8, 2020

Our panel discussion explored key employee wellbeing questions, but how were they answered?

Last month, our panel discussion explored key employee wellbeing questions, such as ‘How do we understand what our employees need?’, ‘What impact does wellbeing really have on our business?’, ‘Where should the role of the employer end?’ and ‘What are clients doing to improve wellbeing now?’.

Here are our top takeaways from the session.

COVID-19 has had a monumental effect on employee wellbeing. In a recent virtual focus group*, 89% of employees felt moderate or high anxiety as a result of the pandemic, with 70% of employees reporting new-found financial concerns. The current environment paints a worrying picture, which means it’s more critical than ever that organisations prioritise employee wellbeing. But how can organisations support their employees to feel and perform at their best, inside and outside of work?

Start with listening, and keep listening

Employee listening is imperative in turbulent times, and seeking feedback and insights needs to be ongoing. When we talk about wellbeing, we consider four key wellbeing dimensions:

Physical wellbeing
Physical wellbeing
Emotional wellbeing
Emotional wellbeing
Financial wellbeing
Financial wellbeing
Social wellbeing
Social wellbeing

Sarah Gledhill, internal Employee Experience lead for our Talent and Reward team, highlighted the variation in how people are experiencing the impact of COVID-19. Prioritising one wellbeing dimension over another is like prioritising the needs of some employees over others. Wellbeing strategies should be targeted and tailored, based on and led by differing employee needs, which can vary over time.

To listen effectively, organisations should embrace technology, using resources such as pulse surveys and virtual focus groups to gather these insights to inform their wellbeing strategies. In this way, you can pinpoint where to prioritise efforts or financial investment on the initiatives that will drive maximum value. Listen, understand, tailor, repeat.

Digital wellbeing developments are turbo-charged

Usman Sheikh, a Director in our Health and Benefits team, described the ways in which digital and virtual wellbeing solutions have been turbo-charged by the pandemic. Solutions that providers or developers had planned to introduce in the next five years have been expedited and implemented in just a matter of months. This digital transformation has seen a rapid increase in services like remote counselling/coaching and virtual GPs, and organisations are now better equipped to check-in with employees virtually. The way we conduct business continues to rapidly evolve, and employers need to be ready to take their employee wellbeing solutions at the same speed of evolution.

The employer’s role in supporting wellbeing has increased

The role of the employer in employees’ lives has been expanding for years, but the pandemic has increased it further, as the lines of work, health and home have been blurred. But where does the responsibility of the employer stop? Emma Starbrook, Communications and Change Management Great Britain Practice Lead, observed that the role of the manager has become increasingly more important, and organisations need to equip this population with adequate skills and resources to support and motivate employees.

Encouragingly, we are seeing organisations start to provide resources that enable employees to self-serve. Organisations should consider identifying dedicated champions to drive wellbeing forward and ensure that all four wellbeing dimensions are being considered. This is a chance for employers to really give back to their people.

Investing in employee wellbeing is a no brainer

Gabby Parry, Global Practice Leader of Saville Assessment, described the clear business ROI for investing in employee wellbeing. Our research shows that organisations with higher levels of wellbeing achieve better business outcomes, higher levels of employee engagement and improved revenue. Specifically, Gabby referred to organisations operating with a high-performance employee experience (HPEX), noting that high-performing organisations are differentiated by what they do with their people.

Exceptional leaders that inspire, create purpose, develop people and genuinely care about employees is a factor that clearly predicts increased financial performance. According to Gabby, investing in employee wellbeing is a “no brainer” for business, as mental health is improved, productivity rises and absenteeism amongst employees drops significantly. It’s a win-win: employees are happy and productive, and the organisation thrives and achieves its business objectives.

For more information on any of these topics, please see the links on this page or contact one of the authors.

*Willis Towers Watson 2020 Restoring Stability - Employee experience and wellbeing through COVID-19 – Virtual focus group overview.


Natalie Nash
Talent, Lead Associate

Kate Mason
Talent & Reward Analyst

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