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5 ways Unum can help employees return to work in today’s hybrid working world

Now the government has adopted its ‘Living with COVID-19’ strategy, many businesses and staff are working out how to return to the office — whether that’s full-time or in a hybrid model.

It’s therefore important to consider how to support staff through this transition — especially if hybrid working is new to them. It’s been a tough few years; both employees and employers can benefit from additional support to adapt to these changes as we map out what the world of work looks moving forward.

1. Help@hand

With NHS waiting lists at record highs, our award-winning health and wellbeing app Help@hand1 (powered by Square Health) provides employees with fast, easy access to six key services to support their health and wellbeing via one easy-to-use app:

24/7 remote GP

Employees and their families2 can access unlimited appointments with UK-based GPs via the app 24/7 — whenever they need it.

This speeds up access to essential primary care and cuts the need for employees to take time out of work to sit in their local surgery’s waiting room. 

Mental health support

Counselling from qualified mental healthcare professionals, which could help ease the transition back into the workplace for those anxious with making such a shift.

Digital physiotherapy

Personalised treatment from a physiotherapist via the app for musculoskeletal issues, reducing the burden of one of the leading cause of sickness absence.

Desk-based workers who work remotely even part of the time may experience musculoskeletal issues from poor ergonomic setup of workstations at home. Physiotherapy could assist with this, as well as helping with symptoms related to long COVID such as muscle fatigue/pain.

Medical second opinion

Employees or family members2 who’ve received a definitive diagnosis can access a medical second opinion with a leading consultant in that field. Discuss the diagnosis or potential treatment options to get much-needed reassurance at what may be a scary time.

Life, money and wellbeing support

Access to LifeWorks, an Employee Assistance Programme integrated directly into the app. This can support employees with financial, legal or family issues.

Wellbeing Calendar

Employees can access a range of wellbeing resources via the Wellbeing Calendar, such as podcasts, webinars and articles.

2. Employee assistance programme

An Employee Assistance Programme such as LifeWorks1 can offer support for those experiencing a variety of concerns, from family caring to guidance on finances as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

Lifeworks offers:

  • 24/7 confidential helpline: Help balancing eldercare/childcare as employees return to work, plus help with domestic legal issues, financial concerns and more
  • New norm toolkit: Covers coping with change, burnout, return to the workplace and developing and maintaining positive habits
  • LIFT fitness: Personalised fitness guidance to assist with reconditioning and increasing physical activity
  • CareNow: Interactive self-management programmes for a range of issues, from anxiety to relationships and communication

All these support services are available to those with access to LifeWorks — you can log in here.

3. Wellbeing workshops

Providing line managers with the tools necessary to promote wellbeing at work can make the transition back into the workplace easier.

Our suite of On Course workshops for line managers offer CPD-accredited sessions to help them feel more empowered to manage their employees’ wellbeing and more confident approaching any health concerns. These workshops teach useful wellbeing practises, including how to support employee wellbeing, enhance performance and boost engagement. 

Meanwhile, employees can access our U-First courses on topics such as Thriving through change: Embracing the unknown, Resilience and Lifestyle management.

4. Return to work

The government’s ‘Living with COVID-19’ strategy means businesses must consider how to best support your employees with the transition back to the workplace, whether that’s in a hybrid capacity or full-time.

Tailored case management for those living with illness/injuries

Some people live and work with long-term conditions and may have been absent from work not just due to lockdowns but because of illness.

Our Group Income Protection customers can access rehabilitation experts at the earliest sign of illness, who offer return to work (RTW) support whenever it’s needed. 

We provide tailored case management to help employees with health conditions thrive at work. This includes:

  • An initial needs assessment to identify the right support for the employee
  • A bespoke, employee centric RTW plan with ongoing case management when appropriate
  • Additional helpful services such as remote psychological support and virtual workstation assessments from our specialist partners
  • Help for anyone experiencing symptoms of long COVID, such as:
    • Work-readiness plans
    • Fatigue management and activity-pacing plans
    • Tools and resources to help with cognitive issues (e.g. difficulty focussing)
    • Advice on workplace adjustments
    • Personalised support from a dedicated case manager for as long as needed to support a return to work

More on our absence management and RTW support >

Graduated return-to-work

For employees transitioning back into work following a sickness absence, we offer a graduated return-to-work (GRTW) programme. This can help people overcome difficulties following illness or injury and support them back into the workplace at their own pace.

See our GRTW guide here >

We’ve created three templates for you to tailor to suit your business and your employees:

Ongoing support using a Wellness Action Plan

Access a Wellness Action Plan and a companion document, which can be valuable if your employee has an ongoing, chronic or long-term health issue with fluctuating symptoms. They may still be in work but struggling to balance their job and their condition.

Once implemented, a Wellness Action Plan can support the future management of the employee’s health and wellbeing at work.

5. Wellbeing Checks

Change and uncertainty can test all of us and take a toll on our wellbeing. That’s why our Wellbeing Checks offer employees covered by Unum’s Group Income Protection a personalised 1-to-1 coaching session with our specialist team for bespoke support.

Our healthcare and rehabilitation professionals have expertise in a wide range of areas, including occupational therapy/psychology, counselling, physiotherapy and nursing. 

We can help with:

  • Concerns about workload
  • Dealing with change
  • Working from home/adjusting to the new hybrid model
  • Concerns about returning to the office
  • Achieving a good work/life balance 
  • Time management
  • Stressors in employees’ personal lives
  • Maintaining self-care and overall wellbeing
  • Resilience
  • Motivation.

As well as helping to support with employee wellbeing, we can help manage the impact of COVID-19 on employees — both in and out of the workplace. 

See more about our Wellbeing Checks

Why is this important?

Hybrid working is a flexible working arrangement where an employee splits their time between the workplace and working remotely.

It’s become widely adopted since COVID-19 changed the way we live and work forever, with ‘flexibility’ being key to its definition.

Benefits to working remotely include an improved work/life balance, fewer distractions, more time for family and friends and no commuting costs. However, when you add working for some of the time in the workplace to the mix to adopt a hybrid working model, this can disrupt employees’ routines.

Humans tend to be creatures of habit and routines — they offer safety. Switching things up repeatedly — as in hybrid working, with regular changes to location and routine — can therefore elicit a stress response.

The above options are five ways to support employees with adapting to a new hybrid working world. They are necessary because of this potential stress response — for employers, helping to mitigate it can unlock hybrid working’s full potential, such as higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism.

1 Access to the service is facilitated by Unum at no cost to the Unum customer. Unum is not the provider of the service but can withdraw or change the service at any time. The service is entirely separate from any insurance policy provided by Unum and is subject to the terms and conditions of the relevant third-party specialists. There is no additional cost or increase in premium as a result of Unum making this benefit available.

2 Employees and their partner (if applicable) can access all Help@hand services. Children are eligible to access the remote GP and medical second opinion services up until their 18th birthday (24th birthday if in full-time education). Children over 18 can access the life, money and wellbeing confidential helpline and other online resources.

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