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Healthy Hybrid Working

A Blueprint for Business

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As businesses start to adjust to another shift in working patterns, Vitality, in partnership with the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, have taken the opportunity to take stock of the health impacts of lockdown, review what lessons can be learnt and look at ways to help businesses reset their approach to health and wellbeing to create a new ‘healthy hybrid’ working environment.

Based on new research amongst homeworkers of their experiences during the third lockdown, wellbeing data from the Vitality Programme, interviews with CEOs and business leaders and extensive RSA analysis of key research relating to workplace trends, this report concludes with a 10-point Blueprint for Business. The Blueprint details key recommendations that can help set businesses on a path to addressing health and wellbeing in the workplace in a way that benefits their people, their business and ultimately, society.

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality UK

“Now is the time for businesses to reset their approach to health and wellbeing and set themselves up for a ‘healthy hybrid’ future. Our report shows that wellbeing and productivity – health and economic competitiveness – are two sides of the same coin. Corporate Britain needs both in order to recover and flourish. This builds on our shared value philosophy of a way of working that delivers for people, society and for the economy. A healthy workforce is so critical for businesses that employee health and wellbeing should be on the company risk register. In the same way organisations plan for pandemics, climate change and market fluctuations, the last 12 months have taught us that the health of our people is the most valuable asset to recovery and growth.”

The ‘long lockdown’ challenge: Declining mental health

While Britain’s homeworkers may have been shielded from some of the more immediate and obvious impacts of the virus, the toll upon their mental health has been high. As a result of this decline in mental health, 85% of homeworkers say taking employee health and wellbeing seriously will be important when thinking about their future career prospects. However, 50% of all homeworkers and 58% of female homeworkers feel anxious about the return.

An ergonomic timebomb

Lockdowns and homeworking have worsened long-standing physical health issues and reinforced sedentary lifestyles leading to increased back and shoulder injuries and pain. This, coupled with a reduction in physical activity of 28% in some parts of the country and a worrying increase in obesity (67% of men and 60% of women are overweight or obese), is particularly concerning.

A shift in expectations

Only 16% of workers would prefer to be in a physical work location full time, while almost 1 in 3 anticipate this will be their employer’s expectation. However, the hybrid work people want is not just a simple shift in workplace location, but a shift in possibilities towards a new ‘healthy hybrid’. More than eight in ten would prefer to work at home for either part of the week or in full. The same number again say they are looking for a better work life balance (80%) and 7 in 10 want work to allow for a fit and healthy lifestyle.

A tailored hybrid for women and young people

Women and young people are among groups that have suffered disproportionately – hybrid working must be tailored to the diverse needs of different groups: Four in ten mothers working from home report losing productivity (42.8%) versus a third of fathers (33.8%). A third of women report worse concentration than usual (31.3%) compared to one in five men (22.3%). Young people have also been adversely effected, with research by the Mental Health Foundation showing that 56% of people said they were more stressed and anxious about work than before the pandemic, but this rose to 72% and 64% for the 18-24 and 24-35 age groups, respectively.

The 'cost' of productivity

Productivity has improved but at a significant cost – employers need to plan for a ‘healthy hybrid’ that monitors outcomes not hours and guards against burnout: 55% of home workers said working from home meant they had found it easier to get more work done, however, on average homeworkers have been working 3 hours extra per week. Vitality data shows that 40% of people are replacing the time that is gained from their commute - one hour on average - with extra time working.
Download the full report

Ctrl Alt Delete podcast

Listen to Vitality’s Director of Vitality Programme, Nick Read, and Director of Vitality Champions, Maggie Alphonsi MBE as they speak to Emma Gannon on her award-winning Ctrl Alt Delete podcast about implementing healthy hybrid working and deep-dive into some of the findings from the Healthy Hybrid: a Blueprint for Business report.

Top 10 recommendations: What can businesses do to create a Healthy Hybrid?

    Establishing a ‘Healthy Hybrid’ culture requires driving inclusive engagement from the top-down.

  1. Close the expectation gap with new mandates on health and wellbeing that are integrated into company risk registers and prioritised at board level.
  2. Senior leaders must practise, reinforce, and normalise healthy hybrid behaviours.
  3. Create ‘healthy hybrid’ feedback loops between employees and leaders.

    Driving ‘Healthy Hybrid’ behaviour change through practical interventions

  4. Promote inclusive productivity gains by assessing performance based on outcomes not hours.
  5. Mandatory breaks and a ‘right to disconnect’ policies are needed to protect hybrid workers from burnout and level up inequalities.
  6. New health and wellbeing policies must be inclusive across all work environments and focus on workers not workplaces.
  7. Organisations should schedule 30 minutes a day for all employees to protect musculoskeletal health.

    Sustaining ‘Healthy Hybrid’ values requires consistent reporting and accountability:

  8. Effective and consistent wellbeing measurement is needed to sustain ‘healthy hybrid’ behaviours and culture.
  9. Organisational structures must make it clear who is accountable for new health and wellbeing mandates, and this must be reflected in management training.
  10. Organisations should track and publish data on hybrid workers’ pay and progression to prevent digital disadvantage

Find out more on how Vitality can help boost your employees' health, and their productivity with our business health insurance.

Britain's Healthiest Workplace

Healthy Hybrid: a Blueprint for Business builds on Vitality’s heritage of running Britain’s Healthiest Workplace report for the last nine years – the UK’s largest workplace wellbeing survey.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace helps businesses understand employees’ health and how it links to their productivity. Employees take part in the survey and their employer is be given an in-depth report on how to improve their health. By encouraging them to be healthier, you're also looking after your business. It’s good for you and good for society.

Watch the video in full.

Our hour-long webinar investigates all of this alongside the impact of Covid-19 on workplace wellbeing, why hybrid ways of working need to be fair and inclusive for all staff, while exploring ways that employers can implement ‘Healthy Hybrid’ into organisations as we enter another ‘new normal’.