BLOG: Get a personal MOT with your work perks
Much like car MOTs, a regular physical and mental wellbeing check-up can reveal problems you’ve not yet recognised, early enough to prevent them becoming more severe. This is especially important after more than two years of Covid-19, which has dramatically changed the way we work and live.
Poor ergonomics from using your old dining room chair all day may be unintentionally causing musculoskeletal problems, a leading cause of UK sickness absence (1). Meanwhile, it’s easy to lose track of time while working remotely without the structure of your usual workday. Working long hours uninterrupted could be quietly building your stress levels.
These are just two potentially detrimental factors to your physical and mental wellbeing. For employees fortunate enough to receive effective, high-quality workplace benefits, 2022 may be time to explore them to combat these issues.
Your financial wellbeing
Money worries are common; with mental and financial wellbeing often linked. The pandemic has left more than a third of UK employees feeling worse off financially (2). This year, rising inflation and energy bills may further squeeze pockets.
Yet despite this and despite a sizeable minority of UK workers feeling worse off because of the pandemic, financial wellbeing continues to be neglected in the workplace. Just 19% of employers offer a strategic approach to financial wellbeing (3).
One answer may lie in Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and integrated health and wellbeing services. Often — but not exclusively — offered alongside traditional employee insurance policies, these can provide multiple resources to help manage employees’ financial wellbeing. Many contain guidance on budgeting, saving, investing, retirement planning, taxes and more — sometimes with 24/7 helpline access or apps. Ask your employer if they offer such benefits.
One in six people in the UK describe their current mental wellbeing as poor (4). The pandemic may have worsened this, isolating people from communities and loved ones for prolonged periods. Some may have returned to routines that are unhelpful to their mental and physical wellbeing, catalysed by numerous lockdowns and other restrictions.
It’s a worrying trend that Unum, a leading UK employee benefits provider, is also witnessing. 33% of all appointments booked by employees via Unum’s health and wellbeing app Help@hand are mental health related. This makes mental health the number one reason people accessed Unum’s service in 2021, with anxiety and depression the main causes listed.
The press dubs ‘Blue Monday’ the UK’s most depressing day of the year due to a combination of money pressures, gloomy weather and post-holiday blues. Although arguably unhelpful to reference it this way, it does highlight the ever-growing importance of mental health charities and high-quality support services to help people through this period.
Again, often employers have services to help. Many have mental health pathways and other ways to positively intervene, potentially even offering vocational rehabilitation or wellbeing checks for struggling employees. So, where comfortable, consider exploring these options and starting a conversation about your mental health.
With the festive period now behind us, many people are looking to lose a few pounds or take on a new sport. The important thing is to set reasonable and achievable goals.
Some employers have fitness services that you may be unaware of to help with this (e.g. apps or exercise planning programmes) as part of an EAP or similar. These are especially helpful if you’re seeking a new challenge to boost both their mental and physical wellbeing.
Although coronavirus may be a major Big C that’s dominated our lives for more than two years, cancer continues to impact millions of people in the UK both directly and indirectly. It’s vital to discuss concerns or symptoms with your GP or a medical practitioner in the first instance.
But if you are diagnosed with cancer, your employer may have resources to help during such a difficult time. One such option is the Cancer Pathway offered alongside Unum’s Group Critical Illness Insurance. A partnership with cancer specialists Reframe means employees covered by Unum’s Group Critical Illness Cover can access personalised support, second medical opinions, a dedicated case manager and more.
Returning to work
2022 may be the year you’re planning to return to work after a prolonged period off through illness or injury. If rushed, it’s perfectly normal to find this overwhelming and face a struggle to get back into work life.
That’s why it’s important to adopt a reasonable pace, working with your employer to develop a plan for your return. Many businesses have dedicated services to ease your transition back into the workplace, such as helplines and one-on-one access to wellbeing professionals to ensure you put the best possible foot forward.
1 ONS Sickness Absence in the UK Labour Market 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/sicknessabsenceinthelabourmarket/2020#what-are-the-reasons-for-sickness-absence
2 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 2021 Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey
3 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 2021 Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey
Natalie Rogers is chief people officer at Unum