Before the pandemic, I had a crazy travel schedule. But, one of the great benefits of the remote working environment is being able to spend more quality time with my family – something that was rare for me in pre-pandemic times. It’s so important to have a good work-life balance, and this is a lesson I learned far too late in my career.
In my home life, I am trying to support my son make the transition to independent living, as he struggles with anxiety and depression. As a parent, it’s so rewarding to see him make some progress and slowly gain confidence. Ensuring I have a good balance between work and my personal life has never been more important to me than it is today.
Of course, there’s no way I’d be able to focus on my work or my family if I’m not able to occasionally re-energise. Everyone needs some downtime to detach and unwind from life’s stressors. And for me, it’s sea kayaking. I’m just back from a week-long kayaking expedition around the coast of Anglesey in North Wales. It’s a great way to stay fit physically and I really do see the positive impact this downtime has on my Whole Health.
The past year has elevated our need for care. Care for ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and our colleagues. But one shining light that has emerged is the realisation of how important Whole Health is.
Here, I’ll reflect on the importance of Whole Health, how employers can approach this and what Cigna Europe is doing to help.
Recognise the impact stress can have on Whole Health
The Whole Health of people in Europe and around the world has been impacted as a result of the pandemic. Our recent annual flagship 360° Well-Being Survey revealed that 34% of Europeans are suffering from unreasonable workload and working hours, and people are also struggling with unmanageable stress.
We all deal with stress every day. Whether it be from work, relationships, family, or all of the above. This stress has become so normalized that it is often neglected or even undetected. In recent conversations, both personally and professionally, I’ve often heard that if there are worries at home – such as financial concerns, access to care challenges or overall family well-being problems – this has a direct impact on how a person performs at work. Rather worryingly, stress, particularly unmanaged stress, or badly managed stress, can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, resulting in further problems like obesity and alcohol addiction, often going full circle again and further impacting a person’s mental health. Physical health can also suffer - stress can build up and manifest itself in a range of physical illnesses including high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath and chest pain – often becoming chronic and harder to manage.
That’s why we need to consider the Whole Health of employees and identify how we can better support them.
The importance of employee Whole Health and how employers can help improve it
The question is, how can we truly positively impact people’s Whole Health? First, it’s essential to understand what Whole Health is and what this means to employees, while keeping in mind that no two employees are the same. For some employees, Whole Health could be about focusing on their physical health, if they are fit and well then they are in a good place to tackle every day demands, both at home and at work. For others, their priority may be looking after their family – if all is well at home, they are able to cope with the demands at work. And other employees may feel energised and driven when they are focused on career goals and work deliverables – and from here, every other area of life falls into place.
To understand what Whole Health means for your workplace and employees, improving communication is a crucial first step. It could be as simple as asking “How are you doing?” and taking an interest in someone’s personal life before you start a meeting, to help understand what is important to them, in and out of work.
Going deeper, Whole Health is about offering easy access to quality tools that focus on looking after the body and mind as well as support for all areas of life – from the home environment to personal finances and everything in between. This includes, but isn’t limited to, offering a robust health plan, access to virtual health solutions, mental health support, chronic condition management programmes and physiotherapy services.
And finally, Whole Health is about creating a workplace culture that is safe, supportive and caring and one that builds a strong support network within the company which forms the foundation for building a positive workplace where people can thrive.
With Whole Health, this is precisely what we are doing.
Practice what you preach
Whole Health represents Cigna Europe’s new strategy to help employers tackle these burning issues head on. And internally, Cigna Europe is on a journey to become a true Whole Health employer – ensuring Whole Health is the reality for our employees. We are committed to driving a more holistic healthcare approach for employees through a new corporate culture and accompanying set of healthcare products and services to help them reach a better Whole Health. For example, our new Cigna Online Wellness Tool allows employers to build tailored wellness solutions that delivers personalised recommendations on five key support areas – case management, disease management, lifestyle management, prevention and health risk assessment. The Wellness Tool can help employers prioritise the Whole Health of their employees, resulting in a happier, healthier and more productive workforce. And, to further support employers and employees, we’ve recently launched our innovative Cigna StressWaves Test, designed to evaluate stress levels in employees and customers in 90 seconds.
At Cigna Europe, we’re also on a transformational journey to become a Whole Health company. We have launched a four phased approach and will be sharing regular public updates on our progress:
- What are we doing well, and what needs to improve? How are our employees really doing?
- How can we change things? What is feasible? How can we tackle these issues?
- How can we roll out these changes and make sure everyone is on board?
- Did we reach the results we hoped for? Are further changes needed?
This is a very exciting and ambitious transformation for Cigna Europe and one I’m particularly proud to be part of. I look forward to being able to regularly share updates and developments with you. I see this transformation as the start of an open and honest conversation with all our employees, partners and customers, so we can turn the concept of Whole Health into a reality and ultimately a solution that will help our employees and theirs.