Mental health has taken on enhanced importance in a post-COVID-19 world. Workers’ psychological wellbeing was already an issue of great concern to companies, given the risks and uncertainties inherent in a changing employment landscape. The stresses associated with the COVID-19 situation, such as job insecurity, health risks, caregiving responsibilities, and adjustments to remote working, can have repercussions on performance and achievement. Wellbeing is now an integral part of the relationship between employer and employee.
Shaping a brighter world of work: The employer outlook, one of our latest reports, shows that while employers are aware of the need for a holistic approach to wellbeing, many are still working to define and deliver it. This has become an even greater challenge during the pandemic, when the boundaries between work and home are increasingly difficult to define.
The employer outlook report and the latest flagship report entitled, Shaping a brighter world of work: The case for a new social contract, draw on insights from Zurich Insurance Group’s five-year research collaboration with the Smith School of Enterprise at University of Oxford. The insights are based on responses from around 19,000 workers across 17 countries, 1,200 businesses, consumer surveys and in-depth interviews with Zurich business customers on the future of work amid a pandemic.
A consistent theme in the Zurich-Oxford research has been to ask how employers can accommodate in a holistic manner the physical, mental, social, and financial wellbeing of their workforce. All these issues have taken on enhanced significance during the pandemic. Ensuring that the workplace, whether in an office, factory or at home, is a healthy environment must be given a high priority in a company’s global strategy. Our report suggests that companies will look increasingly to monitor their employees’ wellbeing, ensuring that they work in healthy environments and are themselves healthy. Maintaining a healthy work environment will also require companies to be alert to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Helene Westerlind, CEO of Zurich LiveWell, says employees should have high expectations of their employers. “The fundamental aspect of caring about your people, wanting them to live happier and healthier makes not only sense to the individual and person as such but also for the business performance.
“People who are cared for at work, feel appreciated and recognized will perform better at work, have fewer sick days, be more productive and give an overall greater employee satisfaction and performance back to you as an employer. It’s a win-win approach that needs to be managed and treated as such.”
One question confronting organizations who manage teams remotely is how far to extend their responsibility for their workers’ overall wellbeing, notably their mental health. Now that the boundaries between the office and the home have significantly blurred, companies must determine whether or how to manage people’s wellbeing outside of “working hours,” however defined.
“The fundamental aspect of caring about your people, wanting them to live happier and healthier makes not only sense to the individual and person as such but also for the business performance.”
Our research indicates that employers and employees alike are aware that financial health is central to overall wellbeing. The question of how employers can most effectively contribute to this has been yet another recurring theme in our Income Protection Gap and Workforce Protection projects.
Education about protection is increasingly recognized as a key issue, with the aim of improving individuals’ overall financial literacy. This will enhance their ability to manage their money effectively for a lifetime of financial wellbeing, including understand everyday financial products and benefits that are available to them in their workplace, such as pensions and various types of insurance. While employers had often seen a rather limited role for themselves in offering financial education and benefits advice, this had been changing prior to the onset of COVID-19.
Wendy Liu, Global Head of Corporate Life and Pensions at Zurich Insurance Group, said: “As state systems become more under pressure, employees are seeking more support from their employers. This doesn’t necessarily mean financial support. It could be guidance and access to the appropriate products and service.”
Even though the companies in our survey of medium and large employers in six countries (Australia, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK) gave their employees’ level of financial literacy a median score of 7 out of 10, the majority still saw room for improvement, with two-thirds (68%) saying they believed their workforce would benefit from education or communication around financial wellbeing. Their employees seemed to be aware of this need too, as 57% of companies said they had experienced greater demand over the past three to five years for advice about financial well-being. And even prior to COVID-19, our interviewees believed that financial acumen will only grow in importance for a wide range of reasons, not least upcoming pension reforms in various countries. Accordingly, 74% planned to increase the scope and frequency of their financial literacy programs.
“As state systems become more under pressure, employees are seeking more support from their employers."
Giving balanced attention to employees’ physical, mental, social, and financial wellbeing is challenging at the best of times. Now, with the added stresses of the fallout from the pandemic, it has taken on even greater urgency and importance. But with employees now more likely to take a greater interest in their benefits, employers have a great opportunity to engage with them on all matters related to wellbeing.
Find out more about these emerging global societal risk trends in the latest Zurich-Oxford report HERE Shaping a brighter world of work: The case for a new social contract.
Read more HERE in Shaping a brighter world of work: The employer outlook report, where we ask what role employers can play in helping workers navigate these challenges while also adapting to ongoing changes in the world of work, including the speed of technological change and flexible work arrangements.
Learn more on the Zurich Knowledge Hub
Shaping a brighter world of work: The employer outlook report (PDF)
Shaping a brighter world of work: The case for a new social contract report (PDF)