LONDON, United Kingdom — Global workforces have faced furlough, redundancies, unemployment, financial insecurity and countless lockdowns over the past 18 months. Now a new crisis, “re-entry anxiety”, is threatening to derail our recovery from COVID-19.
According to a recent report from the American Psychological Association, nearly 50% of Americans feel anxious about resuming in-person interactions — vaccine or no vaccine.
In Britain, a Nuffield Health survey concluded the fear of a return to pre-pandemic routines has similarly gripped the UK, with more than a third reporting high anxiety.
While this fear has become heightened as pandemic restrictions ease, a wave of innovative startups has emerged, and they’re redesigning how physical and mental health support is delivered in the workplace.
Tackling re-entry anxiety head-on
The latest to tackle this urgent issue head-on is Clementine. The hypnotherapy app, created in 2017 “by women, for women”, last month launched its first corporate wellness programme to support working women who are transitioning back to the workplace following prolonged time away.
Called ReFrame, the initiative delivers a suite of tools, including tailored cognitive hypnotherapy coaching sessions and workshops, to help employees self-manage their mindset around returning to the workplace.
“We hear so often how game-changing Clementine is in helping women through difficult periods of their life and none are harder than this transition,” said Clementine CEO Katie Lee.
“We’re proud to be able to launch ReFrame to companies to ensure that they are fully supporting the mental health of women in their workforce, with content that focuses on this moment.”
ReFrame builds on the company’s mission to reduce stress and boost the confidence and self-belief of millions of women, with the focus on helping people feel unstoppable in the workplace.
“Clementine’s new work therapy is available B2C for all women and we are going live on two UK based benefits platforms HEKA & Lyfe, so that organisations can offer this to their female talent,” Founder Kim Palmer explained to Welltodo.
Digital-first healthcare solutions
Another app-based employee benefits service that has risen to meet the needs of employers and employees through the pandemic is Peppy.
The London-based startup has partnered with sector-leading businesses including Santander, Aviva, Wickes and Clifford Chance to support staff dealing with emotional and practical issues relating to fertility, pregnancy, early parenthood and menopause.
Peppy’s Co-Founder Mridula Pore believes the increased use of digital healthcare solutions, which rose by 37% in 2020, will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic — along with flexible working and a more open conversation around mental health and traditionally taboo topics such as menopause.
However, she also hopes workplace wellbeing will move away from a hierarchical system where only the highest-earning industries or most senior colleagues within an organisation receive healthcare support.
“Peppy is hierarchy agnostic — we work with public and private sector organisations, supporting their colleagues from shop floor to top floor — and we are proud of that. Everybody deserves support in the moments that matter, so wellbeing solutions that are inclusive and accessible by all are the way forward,” Pore tells Welltodo.
Adding: “I also predict that there will be a rise in employers offering specialist, personalised wellbeing support and education. We need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace wellbeing, because every individual is different.”
The future of workplace wellness
The increased adoption of apps such as Clementine and Peppy demonstrates how workplace wellness is no longer just a “nice-to-have”, says Arti Kashyap-Aynsley, award-winning Global Wellbeing Leader.
“The pandemic stripped everything back,” she tells Welltodo. “Workplace wellness went from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a vital element of pastoral care for a business to look after its employees at a time of crisis.”
At the same time, Kashyap-Aynsley believes the virus accelerated the conversation around who owns the wellbeing agenda within an organisation, propelling it forward by at least five years.
Now, she says, the challenge will be determining where workplace wellness fits within a company. “Is it in the boardroom, with the executive directors, operations, corporate social responsibility or HR? Wherever it fits, it’s no longer just an HR issue. It’s a business issue.”
As a consequence of this realignment, Kashyap-Aynsley predicts there will now be a greater need for data and metrics to track the impact of workplace wellbeing efforts.
Externally, partners such as Clementine and Peppy will be under greater scrutiny to show their value, she says. “Internally, just like the agenda around diversity and inclusion, the conversation around workplace wellness is only going to get louder. The businesses that try to elevate this topic are always going to be one step ahead.”
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This app uses cognitive hypnotherapy methods, such as visualisation, to help people reframe threats as opportunities and turn feelings of anxiety and nervousness into those of excitement. It was recently picked as one of the “Seven apps every woman should own” by The Guardian in the UK.
Peppy connects people via one-to-one chat and video consultations with real-life experts and peer support to address issues around fertility, parenthood and menopause. Used by Santander, Novartis and Aviva.
Based in San Francisco, BetterUp matches employees with approved coaches to unlock their potential and improve their states of wellbeing, performance and purpose. Used by Google, Airbnb and Warner Brothers.
Tictrac provides personalised and interactive action plans, content and dashboards to help people discover and adopt healthier habits that last. Used by Allianz, Aviva and Prudential.
Powered by SquareHealth, this is a value-added service with Aviva’s private medical insurance. Employees can access around-the-clock GP video consultations, repeat NHS prescriptions and virtual physiotherapy appointments.
Intellect is a mental health tool built by psychologists to help people work on the personality flaws they’ve always struggled with, from relationships to work habits. It provides bite-size digital therapy to support emotional wellness and development.