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Workplace health and wellbeing policies explained

How are your employees doing?

And we don’t mean performance metrics in a spreadsheet somewhere — how are they feeling?

The past few years have been difficult for many people financially, emotionally and physically. It’s therefore more important than ever for employers to understand employee wellbeing and actively support it. As well as being vital to a workforce’s wellbeing, there are also business benefits.

Why prioritise workplace wellbeing?

Only around half (51%) of business have a strategic approach to employee wellbeing. Yet mental ill health is the UK’s fourth-most common cause of short-term sickness absence and the biggest cause of long-term sickness absence.1 Plus, COVID-19 has exacerbated mental ill health. By the end June 2021, a record 1.5 million people received mental health support, with even more people (1.6 million) still on the waiting list for treatment. New referrals in June 2021 were up by 24% on June 2020.2

Taking care of employees’ mental health can have a major return on investment not just in improved staff wellbeing but also potentially meaning:

  • Higher productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Improved retention, meaning less staff turnover and reduced hiring costs
  • Benefits to your company’s reputation as a good place to work.

What is a workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy?

A workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy is a plan, pathway or roadmap for how you as a business manage employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

Above all, it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. However, it’s key to bringing to life and embedding a culture of workplace wellbeing so every employee can thrive.

Implementing a workplace mental health and wellbeing strategy

Mental health is a complex topic; however, a wellbeing strategy doesn’t have to be. For example, simple steps employers can take include:

  1. Starting a wellbeing committee: Get people from across the business involved to promote wellbeing initiatives that work for everyone.
  2. Creating a mental health policy if you don’t already have one: Unum can support with this with a Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review.
  3. Regularly reviewing your policy: It’s not enough to create the policy and leave it be. It must involve regular, two-way communications between employer and employees about how it should evolve
  4. Measuring and managing your risk areas: Examine your current wellbeing measures and make improvements as well as promote what’s available and measure utilisation and outcomes
  5. Checking existing providers: See if you already get access to support for your employees. For instance, Unum Group Risk customers can access our health and wellbeing app Help@hand3
  6. Line manager competencies: Train line managers and upskill them to support staff.

None of these require major strategic business change but, as above, ensuring employee wellbeing can make a real difference to your staff.

What is Unum’s Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review?

Perfect for those unsure where to start or wanting to review their existing approach, our Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review examines your current workplace wellbeing strategy, then discusses how you could make changes to improve employee wellbeing.

Our wellbeing specialists work with you to make these improvements over 12 months, offering advice, training and support at every step.

At initial review, we determine what already exists and areas that aren’t being met, based on:

We’ve used these to create six standards to promote optimal employee health and wellbeing:

  1. Having a mental health and wellbeing policy/plan
  2. Ensuring easy access to resources to support health and wellbeing
  3. Making wellbeing part of the journey from recruitment through to employment
  4. Providing good working conditions and training/development opportunities
  5. Effective line manager practises
  6. Gathering and using data to determine and manage health and wellbeing risk.

How have we helped?

Our team provides a clear structure and approach that leads to real, tangible success. Companies who complete a Unum Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review see notable benefits.

For instance, at initial review, we found 74% of companies met standard four — having good working conditions, benefits and a positive work/life balance. Whilst this is a good score, companies that worked with us throughout the year were able to increase this to 100% at final review.

At Unum, we’re proud that, for companies that completed a Workplace Health and Wellbeing Review and worked with us throughout the year to implement our suggestions:

  • The proportion with a mental health and wellbeing strategy at initial review was just 6% at initial review and 83% at final review
  • The percentage that met the CIPD’s standards for effective people management was just 5% at initial review and 42% at final review
  • The proportion of businesses meeting all six standards we review them against was only 1% at initial review and 25% at final review.

Meanwhile, our return-to-work support team helped 95% of people referred to us for mental health concerns return to work or achieve an agreed result.

Support from Unum

As mentioned, part of your workplace wellbeing strategy might include promoting resources available to employees. Depending on the Group Risk product you hold, there are various benefits accessible to employees:

  • Help@hand offers those covered by Unum Group Risk policies access to services such as unlimited mental healthcare support4 from qualified clinicians
  • Wellness Action Plans — for those with long-term conditions (not just mental health concerns), these show how both employer and employee can manage the employee’s condition
  • Wellbeing Checks — Unum’s GIP lets employers and employees make a referral for an employee Wellbeing Check, a personalised check-in with an in-house Unum wellbeing expert
  • Line manager training and employee wellbeing workshops — CPD-accredited courses for line managers to help them support employee wellbeing on topics including stress management and mental health. Plus, employee sessions on resilience, thriving through change and lifestyle management. Between 2018 and 2022, we’ve had almost 60,000 workshop attendees.
  • Wellbeing Calendar — packed with resources such as podcasts, articles, webinars and awareness dates.
  • Mental Health Pathway — a single access point for specialist support for employees or employers dealing with workplace mental health concerns. Queries increase by 68% between 2021 and 2022. To access the Pathway, complete the form below.

Contact us to use the Pathway

If you have access to our Group Income Protection, please complete the form and one of our team will respond within 1 working day to discuss how we can help.

The bottom line

Promoting workplace wellbeing makes your company a better, more attractive place to work. It’s good for current employees and for attracting future hires — it’s a positive thing to do all round.

1 Health and wellbeing at work 2022, CIPD
2 Pandemic impact on mental health backlog catastrophic,
Royal College of Psychiatrists, June 2021
3 Help@hand is provided to Unum Group customers by Square Health. It offers access to services designed to manage the health and wellbeing of employees and their families. Help@hand is entirely separate from any Unum insurance policy. Help@hand is not part of the insurance contract, is provided by Unum for no additional cost to its customers, and Unum can withdraw or change the service in the future. Help@hand is available to UK residents only. Unum offers access to the Help@hand services provided by third parties.

Square Health Limited, registered in England and Wales Number 07054181. Crown House, William Street, Windsor SL4 1AT.

4 For mild to moderate issues. Number of sessions subject to clinical appropriateness. Should the service be no longer suitable, users will be directed to alternative appropriate support.

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