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Health and wellbeing 'slipping down the agenda'

Man stressed while working on a laptop

Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, are employers paying enough attention to employee health and wellbeing?

A new report from the CIPD and Simplyhealth suggests that wellbeing and mental health are beginning to slip down the business agenda, despite the fact that organisations are still dealing with the fallout from Covid-19 and it remains an ongoing concern for workers.

Seven in ten (70%) HR professionals surveyed for the Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 report agree that employee wellbeing is on senior leaders' agendas (down from 75% in 2021), and 60% believe that line managers have bought into the importance of wellbeing (down from 67% last year).

Just 42% think senior leaders in their organisation encourage a focus on mental wellbeing through their actions and behaviours, a decrease from 48% a year ago.

Two-thirds (66%) of HR professionals said they are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on employees' mental health -- and nearly a quarter (24%) said that Covid-related anxiety is among the top-three causes of workplace stress in their organisation.

Stress levels among employees remain high, with 79% of respondents reporting some form of stress-related absence in their organisation last year, rising to 90% for large organisations.

Unhealthy trends linked to poor wellbeing are also commonplace: 67% of respondents are aware of some form of leaveism (such as using annual leave to work) in their organisation and 81% say they have observed presenteeism (working when ill) among those working from home.

Covid-19 will continue to impact workers for some time and needs to be factored into organisational plans, particularly with regard to effective mental health support and helping people with Long Covid, the report said. Otherwise, employers run the risk of losing valuable employees at a time of severe skills shortages.

"Not only is Covid still with us, it has exacerbated existing health and wellbeing challenges and created new ones, like Long Covid," said Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.

"So while the drop may be small at this point, it's still a concern that some senior leaders are starting to pay less attention to health and wellbeing -- particularly when the last two years have proven how important it is to organisational resilience."

Suff pointed out that it's up to senior leaders to "shape an environment where people feel safe to speak up about health issues and seek support".

"Alongside senior leaders, managers need to buy into the importance of health and wellbeing since they manage workloads and set deadlines; they are also, usually, the first port of call when someone has a concern," added Angela Sherwood, chief people officer at healthcare company Simplyhealth.

"If they are to be a positive influence on people's wellbeing they need the right training, support and expert guidance -- and need to be given enough time and space to devote to people management."

Posted by Fidelius on May 16th 2022

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