2020 has been an unprecedented year for the workplace. The ‘new normal’ we have all had to adapt to has created pros and cons for physical workspaces and employees alike. Maintaining employee wellbeing while working from home became a key business issue – something not high up the agenda at the start of 2020.
The work from home directive forced many businesses to escalate plans to move to hybrid forms of working in a matter of days, when perhaps they were planning to roll this out over a few years. However a growing proportion of employees have been finding themselves increasingly lonely and isolated working from home, missing their colleagues and the ‘watercooler moments’ that perhaps were previously taken for granted.
We’ve been keeping an eye on the businesses who have been proactively supporting employee wellbeing while working from home, and those supporting essential staff who still had to go into physical workplaces, through these challenging times.
One organisation keeping employee wellbeing in mind during the pandemic was News UK, whose strategy picked up an award for internal communications at The Drum PR Awards 2020. The company sent out surveys to all staff to check in on their mental health and ask whether it could provide anything to make their working from home any smoother. Based on the results, new initiatives were rolled out to employees such as a daily news email which shared details of events and uplifting stories about employees. Alongside this, Wellness Wednesdays were introduced where employees got access to digital events on different topics like financial wellbeing, nutrition and physical activity. These included a cook along with a vegan chef, and even a ‘Dear Deidre’ on how to maintain relationships throughout lockdown!
Fladgate, the city law firm, has encouraged employees to be more active by taking walks during the working day to recuperate and refresh themselves. The company has kept employees engaged by creating competition amongst them over who can rack up the most steps or exercise on its app. One employee said: “We’ve got our internal competition in the firm and it’s exciting. I’m competitive, so it’s encouraged me to walk more.
In a year where it’s been more important than ever to get outside, we commend Fladgate for its commitment to get their employees moving!
NHS England and NHS Improvement
Arguably no other workplace was impacted as dramatically as those working on the frontline in the NHS. in 2020, NHS England won the ‘Best wellbeing initiative’ award at the Occupational Health and Wellbeing awards for what the judges call their ‘outstanding work with an in-depth knowledge of the challenges faced’. Employees were able to access many sources of support, like virtual ‘common rooms’, a phone and text service and even one-to-one support from professionals.
Resilience was another key focus of the initiative, with staff working on a resilience project with the Centre for Army Leadership. The initiative’s success is proven by the stats: as many as 3,000 calls have been made to the helpline and there have been 130,000 visits to the wellbeing website. It is important to remember that whilst we rely on our health service to look after us during the pandemic, it can only continue to serve us at its best if its staff’s wellbeing is supported.
UK based housing business Aster Group has been recognised as an industry-leader in terms of its wellbeing strategy, especially in its response to the pandemic. Employees have access to health products and services like a 24/7 GP advice service to support them in living a healthy lifestyle.
Employees also have access to virtual physiotherapy sessions, which have come in handy considering the different setups people have when working from home. This particularly impressed the judges of the REBA Employee Wellbeing Award, who bestowed them with the award for the Best Mental Wellbeing Strategy for companies of 1,000-5,000 staff.
Ocado has developed a brilliant approach to financial wellbeing which takes into account the broad range of employees it has, from head office workers to delivery drivers. The company’s initiative is called ‘Mind Yourself’ and provides guidance on financial health as well as professional support and guidance for those who need it. This year, especially in the light of the pandemic, Ocado expanded its financial wellbeing offering to those in pre-employment stage too.
Recruitment business Austin Fraser has always appreciated the importance of employee wellbeing, and adapted its offer accordingly in 2020. While staff worked from home, its CEO kept employees engaged and updated by sending video updates every week on the business. In addition, employees took part in cooking competitions, competing to make the recipe of the week and share their culinary expertise with the rest of the employees. One innovative idea to embrace working from home was the introduction of Austin Fraser ‘cribs’ (similar to MTV’s cribs) where, every Friday one employee shared their home and experience of working from home. For more information on Austin Fraser’s commitment to employee’ wellbeing, check out our article here.
There are, of course, many companies that have prioritised employee wellbeing while working from home in 2020. We hope to see many other organisations following suit in 2021 as wellbeing becomes an ever more essential part of business’ agenda, particularly as restrictions continue in the UK.