Nick Gliddon, Vodafone's UK Business Director, joined Chris Witty, UK Chief Medical Officer (by video); Matthew Pell, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Director; and executives from Centre Parcs, Wilco and Ingeus to discuss why and how employers must focus on employee wellbeing in the new era of hybrid working.
Prof Whitty, now a well-known face across the UK since the COVID-19 pandemic began, opened discussions by highlighting the need to look at employee wellbeing from a new perspective in the wake of thie pandemic.
“Traditionally we looked through a health and safety lens, but it’s so much more than that now,” he said.
COVID hasn’t gone away, he cautioned, so the primary responsibility for businesses and government is to make “it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated”.
It’s also really important for offices to be well ventilated, he said, and for employers to encourage more active lifestyles among their employees to achieve healthier lives over the longer term.
“Even taking the stairs versus the lift every day adds up to make a big difference,” said Prof Whitty.
The panel agreed that mental health was equally as important as physical health – a fact brought into sharp focus during the lockdowns, when isolation exacerbated mental health issues for many, surveys have shown. This was why employee engagement was so important during the pandemic, said Nick Gliddon, Vodafone’s UK Business Director.
“We realised that we had to be engaged with our employees, and that’s continued straight through,” he said. “Now we have quarterly pulse surveys for constant feedback, as well as 240 mental health first aiders, and all of our managers trained to support in these challenges.”
Vodafone has also adopted a flexible working model to give employees the benefits of both office and home working, he said.
Raj Singh-Dehal, Chief Corporate Officer at Centre Parcs Holiday Resorts, agreed that communication was key: “It was really important for us to reassure our staff that they did have a job to come back to after furlough.”
But Fiona Monahan, Chief Executive of Ingeus, cautioned the panel that employee expectations were “only going to get higher” now that new ways of working and a renewed emphasis on employee health and wellbeing had been embedded in many companies’ operations.