COVID-19 Lessons From Lockdown People at Work

The acceleration of wellness

By Fiona Bugler • 12th May 2020

In our new reality wellbeing will remain top of the agenda. Up until March 2020, wellbeing had established itself as a growing multi-million-pound industry.

Wellness was reported to be worth up to £2.8 trillion worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute. And workplace wellness programmes had blossomed into an industry worth more than £31 billion worldwide. By 2022, British consumers were forecast to spend £487 per head annually on “wellness”, according to analytics firm GlobalData.

Prior to the pandemic, some were calling out for governments to prioritise wellbeing over economic growth. And now more than ever, this would seem a focus worth considering — as public health is in crisis, growth in on hold.

Before we were forced to pause, a culture of busy-ness with stressed-out workers short on time was the norm. More than one-fifth (22%) of employer respondents believe that their employee absence rates are higher than other organisations because they didn’t have health and wellbeing initiatives in place, according to research by Group Risk Development (Grid). Now as we live through lockdown, what some are calling the biggest mental health experiment ever conducted, and on a more positive side, a mini fitness boom has occurred, the hunger for wellbeing may need satiating.

Absenteeism due to unhealthy habits (too many after-work drinks) and stress was on the increase. In total, 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 as a result of stress. This equates to 57.3 per cent of the 26.8 million workdays lost to ill health according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Just like digitisation has been accelerated it’s very likely wellness will be too, with businesses understanding that they have a responsibility for their employees, health, fitness and wellness.

In June 2019, Nice guidelines stated that:

“Workplaces that have physical activity programmes to support employees to move more when travelling to and from work and during the working day will positively increase physical activity levels. This may help to reduce staff absenteeism levels, increase staff satisfaction and improve the workplace environment.”

Writing in the Health At Work, report, in January 2019, Yik-Ying Teo from the National University of Singapore points out that due to our increasingly sedentary workplaces, health hazards at work have evolved from injury and toxic environments too, “the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes or burnout-linked depression,” all of which can be combatted by physical exercise.

Before COVID-19, innovative developers realised that there was an opportunity for developing bespoke accommodation with gym, spa, cycling and walking paths planned in. As well as ticking social and corporate responsibility boxes, these developers were responding to demand. The most recent example of innovative planning comes from the developers of the Elysian residence in Stanmore, the Landsby. The development for well-heeled over 65s features a fine-dining restaurant, a coffee lounge and bar, a library and a rooftop health club and medical suite — perfect when you need to stay at home and social distance.

Post COVID-19 the challenge will be to create wellbeing solutions that go beyond lunch-time yoga and mindfulness workshops.

Fiona Bugler

This article was written by our team of in-house writers. We're always interested to hear from wellbeing professionals and business leaders. If you'd like to write for the zone, follow this link.

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