Key trends: Health and wellbeing strategy for 2021 and beyond

Getting it right is a top priority in 2021

Key trends: Health and wellbeing strategy for 2021 and beyond

Health and wellbeing strategy has become one of the top priorities for HR leaders, according to new research.

The Vitality Works Corporate Wellness in a New Era Survey found 82% of respondents across ANZ ranked health and wellbeing as a high or very high priority, compared to just 42% in 2019.

The pandemic was the main driver for the sharp rise, highlighting the need for robust, well-developed provisions to support employees with both their mental and physical health.

The research highlighted several key challenges for HR leaders, including establishing boundaries to stop burnout, supporting team building virtually and sustaining regulatory compliance among remote workers.

It found health and wellbeing strategy will be a major area of investment for businesses, with the focus on a more holistic offering that supports mental, social, physical, financial, vocational and spiritual wellbeing.

Read more: How to deal with frustrated employees

HRD spoke to Peter Hartnett, head of people and culture at Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, the parent company of Vitality Works, about the company’s own multi-layered approach to supporting employees.

“One of the things we are doing as a business is we’ve increased our own offering around mental health support,” he said.

“Employee Assistance Programs have become a baseline for businesses but we also run our own programs around building mental health resilience.

“Another thing we’re partnering with other businesses on is creating almost like a tribe mentality, so people within the business can connect with other people. Whether virtually or in person, they know that they can actually go somewhere internally to talk to someone.”

Hartnett said health and wellbeing now requires a more sophisticated approach, offering employees the resources they need but also equipping managers with the skills to better support staff.

It mirrors similar initiatives taken up by businesses across ANZ and the creation of mental health first-aiders, a role which is becoming more common within the workplace.

With remote work likely to remain well into the future, the importance of health and wellbeing will continue to remain a high priority.

Hartnett said one of the key differences for HR professionals now is that HWB strategy has to be far more intentioned than it used to be.

Read more: Monzo founder: Even leaders struggle amid crisis

It’s well-known that workplaces play a critical role in fostering social connection in people’s lives.

As the place we spend the majority of our time, one of the main functions of the office is the opportunity to socialise, connect with colleagues and feel like part of the team.

But in a remote or hybrid working arrangement, the lack of social connection directly impacts mental health, engagement and in the end, productivity.

“Managers and leaders are almost having to play that psychologist role because of the grief that goes with a lack of social connection,” Hartnett said.

“From our point of view, it's been a case of how do we create intentional connection? It can be really draining for a leader to do all the time so it’s important to have a robust health and wellbeing strategy, especially in supporting mental health.”

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