Whole Health: What is it and why does it matter more now than ever?
March 2021   WHOLE HEALTH

Whole Health: What is it and why does it matter more now than ever?

Employees’ lives aren’t two-dimensional, their lives are complex, their plates are full. Their health & well-being is made up of many moving parts that change from moment to moment.
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COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down and with the many countries across Europe facing even tighter restrictions, there’s no indication of normality returning anytime soon. It’s likely that the events of the last year have also turned yours and your employees’ world upside-down too. Everything that makes up our whole health – family, financial health, work life, and our physical and mental well-being – will have been impacted and in turn, left us feeling lost and needing to take control of our whole health once again.

The family, financial and work-life story

Family relationships, our financial health and our work-life – the key components that make up our ‘world’ – have changed dramatically and often a change in one of these areas has knock-on consequences for the others. Take, for example, working parents with school aged children who said their work had been impacted by COVID-19 - 20% said this disruption was due to having to work around childcare responsibilities, often leaving them feeling stressed, exhausted and feeling close to burnout.

Parents readjusted their work schedule to fit around caring for their children, leading to them logging on early in the morning and working later in the evening. Latest results from health service provider Cigna, indicate that 73% of workers in Europe work in an always-on environment with 51% working after hours. Despite all the time spent at home, caring for children and home schooling, only 50% of people actually spend quality time with their family.

While some of the European workforce has had to contend with a challenging home-work-life set up, others are furloughed and are receiving only a percentage of their full earning potential. And unfortunately, as a result of the global pandemic, there are 13.2 million few people on company payrolls across Europe. A third (30%) people are experiencing financial stress and only 15% are satisfied with their current financial situation, according to Cigna’s COVID-19 Pulse Survey.

This disruption to our daily lives has in turn caused a knock-on effect with our physical and mental health, too.

The physical story

Working from home, or not working at all, has resulted in a sedentary lifestyle for many, with no regular commute or lunchtime walk with colleagues. National lockdowns and intermittent local lockdowns have caused disruption to our overall physical well-being. Gyms have been closed, so too have the parks and outdoor exercise was limited to once per day – blocking us from enjoying some well-earned down time and letting off some steam in our usual way. As a result, physical activity amongst adults has fallen. According to Cigna, only 30% of people are getting sufficient sleep at night, 31% are a healthy weight and only 27% exercise on regular basis. These figures are troubling especially since COVID-19 has shown us how important it is to maintain a reasonable level of physical health to lower the risk of infection from COVID-19.

The mental health story

Regular exercise doesn’t just benefit us physically, it’s also good for our mental well-being, too. At a time where feelings of loneliness, isolation and anxiety are on the rise, it’s never been more important to focus on our mental health.

As the global pandemic continues to rage on, this is causing a detrimental effect on our mental health. The amount of change we’re experiencing as a result has led to 81% of the Spanish population being stressed, with the biggest cause of stress being uncertainty for the future, according to our research.

When we feel stressed we often find it hard to sleep or eat well, and poor diet and lack of sleep can both affect our physical health. This in turn can make us feel more stressed emotionally – a vicious cycle which can be difficult to break especially while living in the extreme circumstances we’ve been enduring for the last year. Exemplifying why it’s crucial to consider both mental and physical well-being in tandem when focusing on improving whole health.

The employer’s role in improving the whole health of their employees

With COVID-19 looking likely to stick around for 2021 remaining resilient and adapting to the new normal won’t be easy.  How one person copes with change and disruption will be different from another. 62% of people turn to their family and friends for support whereas 30% look to their employer for support. In particular, employees would like flexible working hours (38%), enhanced insurance cover (37%) and mental health support (32%) from their employer and for their employer to understand and care about them (32%).

Cigna Europe is encouraging employers to look at the bigger picture when it comes to their employees’ whole health – our lives aren’t two-dimensional.  They need to acknowledge that their employees’ lives are complex, their plates are full, and their health and well-being are made up of many moving parts that change from moment to moment.

Their personal health, their family well-being, their finance concerns, their work-life balance and their access to care all impact their whole health and their ability to work effectively. Employers need to offer a comprehensive employee wellness program which covers everything from medical assistance, mental health support and life and protection services to ensure they feel supported in every sense – when they are in good health and when they’re not. Employees who are supported, resilient and in good health will be fighting fight as we continue to navigate through COVID-19 and beyond.

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