Why time and choice are key to employee wellness

By Holly Hunter, PR and Communications Director, Cytora

Mental wellness and self-care have long been on the healthcare agenda, and now thankfully are taken more seriously than ever – both by healthcare professionals, by each of us as individuals and by our employers. 

But the past twelve months have left many people feeling exhausted, uninspired, and even unwell, as lockdown life has taken its toll. 

One positive to come out of that lockdown is just how high self-care now sits on the priority list. Today, after such a tumultuous year, we understand that our mental health is as important as our physical wellbeing. 

What’s more, with the majority of people in insurance and beyond still working from home, the lines between work and life have become more blurred. Which means that while we understand the importance of self-care in theory, carving out time for yourself can be difficult, particularly when juggling childcare and other caregiving commitments. 

When the world starts to open up once more, the workplace will have changed forever. DLG, for example, is considering its hybrid future, while Nationwide in the US plans to shrink from 20 physical offices to just four.

At Cytora, we spent some time understanding what we can do to ensure people have the best possible opportunity to practice self-care and focus on their own mental and physical wellbeing in this new world of work. Here, we share our learnings with you. 

Building on our foundations

When we went fully remote at the beginning of the pandemic, the shape of our organisation changed overnight. You can read more about that in a previous blog by Cytora CFO Tom Coward here

We understood the need to act quickly to ensure our people felt supported, so we introduced some initiatives to help to promote employee wellbeing. For example, we offered regular time with a qualified CBT therapist, while ensuring people were taking up private healthcare benefits and running informal yoga sessions. 

At the same time we organised social activity to make sure personal connections were still strong, for those people who need more interaction for the good of their wellbeing. When the rule of six was introduced in the UK we gave budget to small groups for in-person meet-ups (our so-called ‘Pirate Crews’) and continued virtual team lunches. We have also held online activities like a murder mystery, a living room scavenger hunt and a cocktail experience. 

The feedback we received on all of this has been positive. But we also realised that while these activities worked for some people, they didn’t work for others who had childcare duties in the evening, for example. It’s hard to create a one size fits all approach to something so personal like self-care. 

Giving people time to focus on their wellbeing

Cytora’s cultural ambassadors, who are instrumental in driving forward many of these initiatives, brought this feedback together to consider the next wave of wellbeing activity. After much discussion, we realised that there were two things that we needed to offer to support individual self-care. 

  1. Choice: the option to do what’s best for you and your own personal wellbeing
  2. Time: the ability to prioritise your wellbeing and having time to do so 

That’s when the idea for Cytora’s first wellbeing day came about. 

Making use of time that could previously have been spent on team offsites, which are no longer happening due to lockdown restrictions, we realised we could give our people both the time to focus on their wellbeing, as well as the choice of what works best for them. 

Initially, we had planned a half-day of hackathon in the morning followed by wellness sessions in the afternoon. However, we ultimately decided to put the focus solely on self-care, to ensure it really was the only priority that day. 

Our cultural ambassadors proposed a full day of self-care – dubbed Cytora’s Spring wellbeing day – with opt-in sessions organised throughout the day. People could attend whatever they wanted, or nothing at all, using their time in their own preferred way. 

We hosted yoga, a mindful drawing class, a podcast walk, a session on remote working and a workshop with our CBT counsellor on isolation. Alongside this, Cytorians spent their time running, walking, reading or relaxing.

A positive impact

In our survey after the wellbeing day, we learned that it had had an overwhelmingly positive impact. 100% of those who responded told us that the day had a positive impact on their physical and mental health. 

We heard from people who felt the day enabled them to “switch off and focus, yet helped to build a skill which positively impacts [their] job”. We heard from others who had done something of their own choosing, which they “wouldn’t have had the chance to do in [their] own time”. And those who felt it was “easier not to feel guilty to take the time for oneself and to enjoy more relaxing activities”.

We’d encourage more companies – in insurance, technology and beyond – to think about how to give people both time and choice for self-care. Cytora will continue to find ways to do this as we continue our remote-first journey, and continue learning from what we’ve done so far. 

For more information, feel free to get in touch with us directly here. You can also visit our careers page here