The new employment backdrop, based on hybrid working environments and a greater use of new technologies, has come with new ways of working which enable both organisations and their employees to achieve greater efficiency, adaptability and flexibility. However, their implementation is, in some cases, triggering a series of related difficulties. They include the appearance of high levels of ongoing stress, or even the inability to disconnect from work effectively.
The use of digital applications has also enabled us to use smartphones to reply to emails, view documents and receive calls. This immediacy and versatility, at the touch of a button, means that workers are encouraged to deal with work issues at any time and in any place, fostering the rise of the ‘always on’ culture.
Faced with this new working environment, organisations are responsible for approaching and managing this issue by taking a holistic approach to health, which takes account of all aspects of life that have a direct impact upon their employees’ wellness. Family relationships, financial health and work life are key components in people’s lives and a change in one of these areas has consequences for the others
In this sense, being constantly logged on to work has changed people’s lives, making it harder to achieve good work-life balance and greatly harming employees’ wellness, especially in terms of significant increases in their stress levels, with the corresponding disorders and problems it causes to employees’ overall health: physical (fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and so on), behavioural (impulsiveness, aggression, nervousness, and so on), and emotional (low self-esteem, poor attention span, feelings of frustration, sadness or even depression or anxiety). In the workplace, these consequences could reduce staff productivity and motivation. For that reason, seeking holistic approaches will prevent the workforce's overall health and performance from being affected.
In relation to this situation, according to the latest Cigna, ‘COVID-19 Global Impact’1 study, 60% of employees worldwide admit that they continue to work after the working day has ended, half (51%) say they sit down to work even before the start of their working day, 47% say they are still logged on at the weekend and 1 in 4 (26%) is unable to disconnect even during their holidays. Conscious of this context, various bodies and institutions are working on regulations to improve the circumstances for workforces in this regard. In fact, at the start of the year, the European Parliament2 asked for an EU-wide law to be drawn up to allow employees to disconnect from work outside their normal working hours, without the fear of repercussions, and for the establishment of minimum standards for remote working.
However, although the legislative role is essential, it is also crucial for employers to take support measures that take account of both the work and personal life of their employees, preventing, amongst other things, the working day from extending beyond normal hours and therefore preventing their quality of life and overall health from being compromised. The best way to achieve this is to establish a solid philosophy of logging off from work which helps to make employees as productive as possible.
Technology to achieve good overall staff health
In this regard, the way in which technology is used will determine the ability to live using this philosophy of disconnection. The initiatives of the digital era make it easy to contain this position through innovative solutions tailored to each of the pillars influencing employees’ lives.
On the one hand, if one of the most noticeable consequences of this issue is finding it hard to balance work and personal life, it will be necessary to prioritise this area, through online evaluation or emotional and practical support to help both employers and employees to deal with any challenges they may encounter in daily life. It is also advisable to promote good time management through seminars or coaching workshops with accredited professionals who offer training in relation to productivity and concentration techniques and teach how to manage day-to-day tasks.
In this respect, employers must understand why family life is so important to the health and well-being of their team. To show its support in this area, they can provide them with access to medical care whenever they need it: the telemedicine service will be a great help to employers, offering the ability to access holistic healthcare wherever you are, both physically and emotionally. Equally, to avoid the lack of disconnection affecting productivity, employers must offer services designed to control and prevent mental health issues such as stress or anxiety. Health insurance with psychological cover helps to provide direct treatment for all illnesses affecting team members’ emotional wellness. It is, therefore, about companies supporting employees’ personal lives and offering to create a good, supportive atmosphere.
In turn, establishing connections with loved ones improves physical and mental health. To avoid feelings of loneliness, one of many problems we have had to face in recent months, employers can offer various cutting-edge digital services that act as a support network for people: access to online tools, resources and advice that promote healthy living, and so on. Ultimately, it is appropriate for organisations to ensure that employees have quick access to medical care whenever they need it, through healthcare plans which connect them to a wide network of healthcare professionals, providing a wide range of cover and services.
Finally, although the workforce finds it difficult to balance work and family life due to this failure to disconnect, the financial stress caused by the new social backdrop must not be forgotten. Economic instability means that many employees feel obliged to remain connected at all times for fear of losing their jobs and not being able to keep up with their payments. To deal with this new reality and take care of financial health, it is advisable to implement online health evaluations which enable you to understand new workplace risks and, therefore, to provide personalised resources to improve health and well-being.
Two-way communication between the employer and its employees will be key during this process. Firstly, the organisation will need to be much more proactive when keeping in touch with their workforce individually and periodically asking each employee how they are, what they need and if their work responsibilities are achievable and encouraging them to spend time with their loved ones or to spend time on a hobby that motivates them. Therefore, organisations must be the main pillar of support for their staff, caring for their overall health and creating an environment of trust and continuous contact.
Cigna Whole Health: an overall approach to health tailored to the new reality
Now more than ever, employers need to recognise that employees’ lives are complicated and consist of multiple, interconnected factors which influence their wellness: from physical to mental health to their financial health, family relationships, personal life, access to medical care and their support network. As such, it is essential for organisations to recognise the complexity and develop initiatives to meet each employee's individual needs.
For this reason, at Cigna, we believe that the time has come for healthcare solutions to take this into account. We have therefore adapted our Europe-wide offering of solutions to the new environment from a holistic perspective: Whole Health. It is no longer enough to think in terms of body and mind and health and illness. It is now necessary to take a wider view which covers the consequences of the pandemic on every level. For more information on Cigna Whole Health, please visit https://comms.cignaglobal.com/wholehealth-europe
1Cigna. COVID-19 Global Impact. Positivity around Vaccine Roll-Out and Anticipated Approval Leads Improved Perceptions on Whole Health. Publication date: February 2020. Link
2 European Parliament. The Parliament wishes to guarantee the right to disconnect from work. Link