Coronavirus: Bupa on why office space spending should be re-invested into mental health

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Mental health, conceptual image. (Getty)

The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the working world. Not just in the physical space but also on people’s mental health.

The spread of COVID-19 has sharpened employers’ focus on physical and mental health and brought this to the top of the agenda for many leaders. Looking after staff health and wellness is a central issue and will impact the future sustainability of both our organisations, society, and wider communities.

Gathering for a DIAL Global Digital Summit, where Verizon Media is a strategic partner, executives at the world’s largest organisations discussed how companies can lead and win through inclusion and how organisations can craft better inclusion strategies for a competitive edge.

READ MORE: DIAL Global Virtual Summit: Google, Amazon, Unilever execs talk about diversity and inclusion

The third session of the summit focused on “healthy body, healthy mind & healthy business” and heard expert advice from Paul Deemer, head of diversity & Inclusion, NHS Employer, Geoff McDonald, mental health campaigner & founder, Mind@Works, and Alaana Linney, commercial director, Bupa.

Each talked about the most noticeable changes seen during this unprecedented period and how diversity and inclusion plays a huge part in making sure our mental health is tended to.

“Don’t tell me that a company is inclusive unless you can bring your whole self at work — that is being able to tell you manager, a company, that you are depressed or struggling, otherwise it’s not an inclusive culture,” said McDonald at Mind@Works.

Bupa’s Linney points out that the impact of coronavirus has on the workforce presents and opportunity for greater support for staff mental health.

“One of the most important things is to try and understand what the future looks like,” said Linney. “A new report showed that only 9% of people want to return to previous ways of working. This is an opportunity of creating a new way of work. We got to ask questions about what will businesses look like and do we need gargantuan offices, when we can invest that money into the health of [staff] instead.”

READ MORE: Just Eat, Siemens, Verizon Media execs on how the crisis has catalysed better working practices

Paul Deemer, head of diversity & Inclusion, NHS Employer said that the crisis has put the spotlight on what can be done to greater support staff and and improve engagement.

“In essence, what we are all talking about, is staff engagement. It’s really interesting because pre-COVID, the way the NHS would look at it was typical NHS style — very structured, bureaucratic, and mechanical. It was a bit stodgy. But now the crisis has shown how quickly you can change those processes and systems and connect easily with a raft of people from different backgrounds and perspectives.

“Previously it would have taken six months of formal consultation process to engage a number of Staff Networks (equivalent of Employee Resource Groups) but now we can set up a webinar and engage with thousands of people.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How diversity and inclusion during COVID-19 has flipped a key element of advertising