The CIPD's Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 report sets out the steps that employers need to take to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce and avoid unnecessary employee burnout and costly mistakes within the workplace. The survey showed that approximately 40% of organisations had a standalone wellbeing strategy supporting their wider organisation strategy. However, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this number has increased to 50%. This shows that the health and wellbeing of employees are continuing to become more prominent in the corporate agenda.
COVID-19 threw organisations across the globe into a state of panic as they had to switch from traditional operational business processes to work from home setups that required quite a bit of adjustment on the staff's part. Not only was the transition stressful, but it was also taxing on the staff's mental and emotional wellbeing. According to the survey, nearly 45% of employees stated that their mental health began to decline during the pandemic, while 40% stated that their physical health was impacted somehow. With that said, the Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 survey by CIPD in partnership with Simplyhealth proved that the topic of health and wellbeing was forced into the spotlight, with approximately two-thirds of organisations providing new or better support for those with caring responsibilities, and nearly 83% of organisations stating that they are now providing more support tailored to the individual needs and concerns of their workers.
With most respondents stating that their mental health worsened with the onset of the pandemic and being forced into isolation, it comes as no surprise that mental health and wellbeing have become of utmost importance to employers. Between 2020 and 2021, the focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace has increased by 16% (rising from 41% to 57%). The survey also showed that mental health and wellbeing take precedence over physical health and wellbeing, but financial health and wellbeing remain largely neglected. With employers focusing their attention on promoting positive mental health (57%), physical health and wellbeing are only prioritised by approximately 25% of respondents, while financial wellbeing is only prioritised by about 11% of respondents. That said, employers are now providing employees with more support in the way of both access to counselling services to deal with employees' mental health and wellbeing issues and employee assistance programs.
With the majority of employees being forced to work from home, the stress levels have skyrocketed, causing employees to suffer from a range of issues, from lack of sleep and anxiety to depression, burnout and even post-traumatic stress disorder. The survey found that stress was the primary cause of both short- and long-term absence. Approximately 79% of respondents reported some level of stress-related absence within their organisation over the past year. The leading causes of stress in the workplace included:
These numbers are quite staggering, and as a result, the survey shows that nearly 81% of organisations are taking the necessary steps to identify and reduce stress within the workplace. Some of the most popular ways that organisations are doing so include:
With most employees being forced to work from home, the opportunity for presenteeism and leaveism to occur has increased, with nearly 84% of respondents stating that they have witnessed presenteeism and 70% leaveism within their organisation. Presenteeism is defined as an individual coming to work when they really shouldn't have, resulting in lost productivity despite their attendance. Meanwhile, leaveism is described as using allocated time off (such as sick days or dedicated holidays) to catch up on work that couldn't be completed during their scheduled working hours. Unfortunately, both presenteeism and leaveism are still prevalent amongst employees because they are battling with personal and work-related stressors that require them to come to work or complete their work outside of their scheduled hours. One of the biggest reasons these issues seem to arise is a lack of attention to employee financial wellbeing.
While the majority of organisations are taking steps to deal with stress-related issues in the workplace, the focus on financial wellbeing is still lacking. The survey found that only about 11% of organisations have employee health and wellbeing activities designed to promote the financial wellbeing of their workers, while 20% state that they have no activities designed to do so. Of the surveyed organisations, only 13% strongly believed that they had an adequate budget to help improve employee financial wellbeing, with 50% stating that they don't. With numbers like that, it comes as no surprise that 23% of organisations believe that poor financial wellbeing is a significant cause of employee stress.
Some employers have been trying to balance the budget by slashing employee benefits and pay in the midst of the pandemic. However, the survey found that while minimum, there have been some increases in important financial factors, such as:
Since organisations overwhelmingly reported that the primary reason for both short- and long-term absence was due to mental illness, followed up by musculoskeletal injuries and stress, the CIPD's Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 survey recommends that organisations should focus their attention on the following:
[Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021] With many people hesitant to return to work or struggling with the idea of returning to the office after extended periods of working from home, approximately 96% of organisations have stated that they are taking steps to manage absenteeism and promote attendance amongst their employees. The most frequently utilised steps/methods include:
Overall, the survey showed that approximately 57% of organisations manage short-term absences by focusing their attention on their employee health and wellbeing, while 67% of organisations are doing the same to help them manage long-term absences.
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