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What can business leaders learn from lockdown?

Lockdown massively changed the way we live and work. And with change comes uncertainty. Over the last year, many people turned to Google for advice and support.

Now, new analysis by Bupa’s health and wellbeing experts has shed light on that search behaviour and derived 9 key lessons for workplace wellbeing. Following them could be hugely beneficial for your workforce.

Lesson 1: Regular breaks reduce burnout

Bupa’s research shows that, from October to December 2020, UK Google searches for ‘burnout’ peaked at an average monthly volume of 12,100.

Burnout is caused by high levels of stress in work and leads to feelings of emotional exhaustion and demotivation. Unsurprisingly, it has a negative impact on productivity.

Lauren Gordon, Behavioural Insights Adviser at Bupa UK, stresses the importance of regular breaks throughout the working day and time away from the workspace. Avoiding social media during breaks, in favour of mindfulness exercises or simple stretches, will also help to improve mood and energy levels.

Encourage people to spend evenings and weekends doing something they enjoy, and to spread annual leave throughout the year, so they get significant time away from work.

Lesson 2: New goals help to combat ‘Boreout’

Boreout is a mental health condition that can leave employees feeling fatigued, anxious, and stressed, and is caused by repetitive, unchallenging work.

It can also be triggered by reduced workload and a lack of social interaction, and became so prevalent during the peak of lockdown that Google searches for the term increased by 680%.

It’s important that your workforce feel able to talk about these issues with someone they trust, like their line manager. Together you can set new goals and responsibilities that will increase engagement and motivation at work.

Lesson 3: Flexibility is the key to a happier workforce

With millions of parents juggling work and home schooling, flexible working was one of the key takeouts from lockdown.

We’ve all become more aware that a better work-life balance helps improves wellbeing, and 67% of the UK workforce agree their employers have been supportive. That needs to continue as restrictions ease.

Lesson 4: A healthy lunch means a more productive afternoon

We’ve all experienced the temptations of working from home! It’s easier to snack on convenience foods rather than eat regular, healthy meals.

And, during the first national lockdown, Google searches for ‘healthy lunch ideas’ increased to 74,000 in May 2020 alone.

Victoria Evans, Wellbeing Programme Consultant at Bupa UK, says: “To boost energy levels and combat that post-lunch lull, eat a healthy lunch with a good balance of fruit and veg, carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. You should also try to swap sugary snacks for fresh fruit, veg sticks and nuts.”

Lesson 5: Help people to limit the number of videos calls

Business in lockdown would have been impossible without video call platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

But there is a downside: they’re leaving us feeling fatigued and in danger of burnout. Behavioural Insights Adviser, Lauren Gordon says ‘Zoom fatigue’ is caused by a combination of cognitive effort, heightened self-awareness and simple eye strain.

Organisations need to ask, is every video call or meeting really necessary? Lauren suggests limiting the number of video calls each day, turning off our cameras when possible and avoiding multi-tasking during calls.


Lesson 6: The right WFH set up is vital

Only one in three of us has a dedicated workspace at home. And, if our WFH set up is wrong workspace setup it can cause real problems with posture, even leading to injuries.

In fact, Bupa’s research reveals that 63% of us have injured our back, neck, hips, knees or wrist, since the switch to working from home.

To reduce the risk of aches and pains, encourage people to work at a desk or kitchen table, keeping their shoulders relaxed, arms at 90 degrees to the table and feet on the floor. They should also take a 5-10 minute break every hour to stretch their back and legs and rest their eyes.

Also ask staff members to let you know if they are experiencing aches and pains, and it could help to arrange physiotherapy support for them if they need it.


Lesson 7: WFH events are a great way to stay connected

UK Google searches for ‘virtual team building activities’ peaked at 4,400 in November 2020, just ahead of the festive season.

With working from home likely to remain a feature of our working life for the foreseeable future, virtual events are key component for team morale. They don’t just let people relax and socialise, they keep us connected.

When you plan virtual events, consider the individual personalities of your team members. This will help to put them at ease and let your event get off to a great start.

Lesson 8: Learning new skills boosts confidence and positivity

Supporting employees in developing their skills boosts confidence and motivation, and creates a more able and engaged workforce.

And lockdown only increased our desire to improve our skills. In 2020, Google UK searches for ‘online learning’ increased by 400%.

Learning something new can be challenging, but the rewards are great: better mental health, enhanced wellbeing and a positive focus in uncertain times.

And, as Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance, Pablo Vandenabeele says: “learning a new skill doesn’t always need to be focused on career development. It could be learning a new language or craft; there’s lots of ways you can develop your skillset.”

But, remember: further learning should be an option, not compulsory. Some employees may find their time is already stretched more than ever at the moment.


Lesson 9: A good day starts with a good morning routine

During lockdown, the benefits of a good start to the day became clearer than ever. In fact, Google searches for ‘morning routine ideas’ were consistently high throughout 2020, peaking in May at 8,100.

A good morning routine sets your employees up for success. It will boost motivation, productivity and mental wellbeing.

Behavioural Insight Adviser Lauren Gordon says the important thing is to find what works best for you. Routines can be created around ‘normal’ behaviours like taking a shower, making your bed and having a healthy breakfast. Or it could be new habits developed whilst WFH, like replacing your commute time with a morning workout or walk.

“Routines are a way of creating structure in our daily life – which has been more important than ever over the past year of uncertainty. A daily routine can also be helpful in reducing stress, improving sleep and time management”.

We want to help keep you feeling your best and your business thriving – especially now, which is why we work with health insurance broker, Healthier Intermediaries, to make finding the right cover for you simpler.

As an IoD member, you benefit from 10% discount* on Bupa By You health insurance.

0800 030 8007


CIPD. Impact of COVID-19 on Working Lives., published September 2020

Bupa UK. Hurting from Home: 11 million home workers in pain, published May 2020

* Applies to eligible Institute of Directors members on quotes for new Bupa By You policies. Discount will be reviewed on 22/10/2021 and any changes will apply to renewals and new quotes thereafter. Quotes are valid for 14 days. Terms and conditions apply.

Institute of Directors is an introducer to Healthier Intermediaries Ltd. Healthier Intermediaries Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales No: 9886202. Registered office: Upper Level Suite 2, 3 Hawke Street Business Park, Hawke Street, Sheffield S9 2SU.

Bupa health insurance is provided by Bupa Insurance Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 3956433. Bupa Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. Arranged and administered by Bupa Insurance Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales No. 3829851. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London EC2R 7HJ.

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