New Ways of Working with COVID-19

With a hybrid workplace of employees working onsite and at home under the COVID-19 restrictions, staff well-being and productivity are becoming increasingly critical factors for business leaders to adjust to.

Building a health company culture was once based on targeted initiatives to improve employee well-being such as team gatherings, access to gym memberships, team fun runs, group yoga or pilates at lunchtime and trivia nights.

What has changed due to COVID-19?

2020 has dramatically changed our thinking and limited our ability to provide a consistent and positive employee well-being experience. The importance of mental health and productivity has never been more important in a declining economic environment resulting from the COVID pandemic in Australia.

Impacts to business and the economy?

The cost of poor employee well-being has been widely documented. Poor mental health in the workplace in Australia is valued at $12.8b[1]. This cost is likely to escalate with the increased pressure of isolation due to working from home, demands on parents for home schooling whilst trying to maintain a full-time job and forced retrenchments placing more workload on remaining staff.

‘Presenteeism’ is at risk of becoming an even greater concern for employers now that many staff are working from home. This occurs when staff are ‘on the clock’ but are distracted, over-tired, unwell and not focused. Before COVID, the Centre of International Economics (CIE) estimated around $34 billion dollars a year is lost in productivity to the Australian economy from presenteeism. One of the main drivers of presenteeism is poor health. In research published by the US journal, Population Health Management[2], smokers were 28% more likely to have presenteeism than non-smokers. Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to have high presenteeism than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Employees who didn’t exercise very much were 50% more likely to have high presenteeism than employees who were regular exercisers. These findings demonstrate that poor health behaviours are strongly associated with high levels of presenteeism.

What can be done to improve employee engagement and wellness?

Companies are now being creative in how they are engaging their remote workforce through the use of video conferencing, regular supervisor check-ins, implementing new virtual buddy systems and virtual ‘Town Halls’. Wellness Programs must adapt to support employees in their changed work environment and deliver access to services they need. Primary care and mental health are now the front line for maintaining employee well-being.

Employees with good health behaviours, healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose and regular exercise have lower absenteeism[3] and higher productivity. Virtual Care employee programs can provide primary care and mental health support for employees from their home office, remote worksite, CBD office or while they are travelling.

Doctors on Demand provides 24/7 virtual access to Australian registered doctors and psychologists for video consultations, repeat prescription services, pathology or specialist referrals or medical certificates. Tailored health and well-being programs can be offered through a secure, fully branded telehealth platform accessible by employees from a corporate intranet or website.

Employees no longer need to waste valuable time to leave their home or office to see a General Practitioner or Psychologist. They can conveniently and privately access clinical practitioners for their health and well-being needs with a simple and seamless web experience. Continuity of care can also be provided via direct integration with MyHealth Record with consent from the employee.

Services can be funded by the employer, the employee or even under a co-payment arrangement.  

Check out our Corporate Services offering or contact Doctors on Demand directly to learn how you can provide tailored employee wellbeing programs to improve productivity and engagement under a challenging workforce environment.


[1] Deloitte Advisory, ‘The cost of ignoring the mental health and wellbeing of your workforce’, October 2019

[2] Population Health Management, ‘Presenteeism according to healthy behaviours, physical health, and work environment’, October 2012

[3] https://acoem.org/Practice-Resources/Health-and-Productivity-Management-Center

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