More than 400 intermediaries joined Bupa’s virtual event on Friday 5 June to learn about how to implement safe and supportive environments for those who might need to return to the workplace.
This was the third in the ‘What Now. What Next’ series of thought leadership events Bupa has hosted for intermediaries to share insights to help businesses plan for health and wellbeing issues affecting their teams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This timely event focussed on the practical things businesses need to consider as they prepare their return to work strategies. As a truly global organisation, Bupa has a unique platform to draw on clinical learnings from around the world, exploring how different businesses and operations are returning to work safely and what we can learn in the UK. The event was hosted by three of Bupa’s leading experts who have been advising its biggest UK corporate clients on how to bring colleagues and customers back safely.
Speaking at the event, Dr Luke James, Medical Director for Bupa Global & UK, said: “As the UK economy take its first tentative steps back into the world of work through the gradual reopening of certain industries and sectors, there’s a lot that can be learned from how other countries are safeguarding the health and wellbeing of their people. Bupa has a significant global footprint which means we’re in a unique position to draw on our clinical learnings from around the world, to better understand how the crisis is affecting our customers and our businesses.”
While a higher degree of flexible home working is set to continue, Bupa’s businesses looking at returning to offices shared practical advice based on their own experiences about the ‘new normal’ outside of lockdown. Teams in Hong Kong found success in giving people time to return to base, acknowledging people’s anxiety about leaving home, with colleagues returning to work when they felt comfortable. They also found that colleagues responded well to clear set days to work from the office. Elsewhere, on returning to offices in Copenhagen, Bupa Global teams have redesigned the layout to help ensure effective social distancing. They also introduced staggered working hours and support for colleagues with young families, as Danish children were the first in Europe to go back to school.
Lucy Brown, Clinical Director of Nursing and Infection Prevention Lead for Bupa Health Clinics, has been advising major corporates with their return to work strategies. Lucy provided a practical view on these considerations for UK businesses, and what can be taken from this to help inform return to work plans.
Lucy said: “When creating a return to work plan there are four practical areas that should be considered: organisational design, physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, and social wellbeing. There’s no one size fits all approach to planning and each employer must be prepared to make changes for people to support their health where needed, whether temporary or permanent. It’s important to be as flexible as possible to ensure that employees can make an effective return to the workplace after a long period of working from home.”
Early indications suggest that the pandemic will have a significant impact upon the mental health of employees. It’s likely that many people will be feeling anxious as lockdown ends and there is a phased return to the workplace. It’s therefore important that employers support their people and help them to prepare for what the “new office” will look like to reduce these anxieties from the outset, advised Siobhan Mackintosh, Head of Clinal Assurance at Bupa Group.
Siobhan said: “Lots of workers will be concerned and anxious about being in the workplace. We’ve learned that being open with employees and communicating clearly what is happening and why has been key to social distancing working effectively. Some of our businesses have done virtual tours of offices to show people how to move around the office safely and limit face to face contact. Seeing the extra precautions being taken can offer some reassurance that keeping people safe is the top priority.”
To help businesses plan for a safe and successful return to work, Bupa Health Clinics has created a checklist of measures to consider.
Bupa’s next intermediary event on 25 June will look at how the pandemic has been a catalyst for digital and virtual health services, and what it means for the future of healthcare.