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Access to specialist support for employees being ramped up during COVID-19
22 April 2020
Celebrities and businesses alike have taken to social media platforms, offering free or discounted access to valuable content to support others self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic; whether it’s weekday PE with Joe Wicks, music tuition with Myleene Klass or audiobooks read by David Walliams.
Health and wellbeing providers are equally transforming their products in reaction to the current situation. From increased access to online GP and specialist consultations, to cancer treatment in the home; health and wellbeing benefits are being adapted for employees working from home, and it’s important that employers know what’s available and how to make them accessible to staff.
Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “As traditional routes to accessing healthcare are currently unavailable, many new creative solutions are being developed. Many benefits have been expanded or made available for free, and businesses need to ensure they’re aware of them and how their staff can utilise them.”
During a time of heightened anxiety around health and wellbeing, the ability to access help and treatment can make a significant difference between employees feeling supported or vulnerable. Whether existing conditions need continued support, or new health issues arise, new healthcare solutions are being made available. For example:
Access to specialists
When face-to-face appointments may be reserved for emergencies only, employees can feel exposed if they’re unable to readily access a GP or a Specialist. A number of providers already offered virtual GP services that are available 24/7 and access to these has been increased in recent weeks. Others now also offer digital or phone access to medical specialists such as oncologists, cardiologists, gynaecologists, orthopaedic practitioners, paediatricians, and ear, nose and throat specialists - a great support to employees and their families.
Extra support has been made available from a range of healthcare specialists to arrange treatment where needed. Some providers will arrange cancer treatment at home where appropriate. Providers can advise on how to access treatment for employees that need urgent care, navigating facilities that are available for specific needs
Apps are available that can support employees’ mental health – this can be particularly valuable during an unprecedented time of lockdown. The apps can monitor mood, and guide employees through coping mechanisms to help manage stress. Specialist mental health nurses can provide human intervention where more support is needed. Counselling and specialist support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can be accessed online or by telephone. Support can also be provided for children’s mental health, which can be a great help for employees’ dependants.
Apps can also be used to track physical health, reminding employees to exercise – important when working from home can mean a more sedentary lifestyle. Fitness trackers can monitor progress, and reward efforts, such as free movie subscriptions or discounts on weekly food shopping. Some healthcare providers have also enlisted help from celebrities to attract more employees into keeping fit, arranging specialist classes from yoga to nutrition.
Financial guidance can be provided, via employee assistance programmes for example, pointing staff in the right direction to manage money more effectively during a time when income may be restricted.
Physical health can be compromised with home offices hastily put together. Digital consultations, such as physiotherapy, can be provided – helping employees to work through existing or new musculoskeletal health conditions without the need for referrals. Expert advice can be given on how to improve home working conditions and exercises can be monitored – ensuring that rehabilitation is on the right track. And virtual health assessments can be carried out to help employees monitor their wider health.
Support for addictions
Increased stress can exacerbate addictions. Support for gambling, substance and alcohol abuse, or smoking cessation can all be provided remotely, such specialist support can be a lifeline for many right now.
Hosting benefits online can be a useful tool for home-working employees, providing a central location to review the health and wellbeing solutions available to them. Tailoring online communications and articles hosted on the portal can also signpost employees to making the most of benefits to maintain their health whilst working remotely.
Hill concludes: “Now is the time to take advantage of innovative offerings that have been adapted to meet today’s challenges. Health is at the forefront of many employees’ minds and it’s important that businesses let employees know the feeling is mutual.
“During this unprecedented time, it’s crucial that employees know that their health and wellbeing is prioritised by their employer, and that just because they may be working from home, out of sight isn’t out of mind. If employers are wondering how best to support the health and wellbeing of their staff whilst they’re working remotely, it’s a good starting point is to check in with their benefits’ advisers to see what’s new.”