Employers need to take proactive action if they want to help employees overcome unhealthy habits developed during the last lockdown.

As we start to emerge from the latest lockdown, the negative impact on the health of the workforce is becoming worryingly apparent. One in three people has gained weight and decreased their physical activity, with more than half admitting to snacking more.

UK adults have gained an average of 10lbs in lockdown, with two thirds (64%) drinking more alcohol. In no small part due to three quarters (72%) feeling more stressed and anxious.

The vast majority of individuals now want help to get back to health. So, this month, our #BacktoHealth campaign looks at five ways to help employees tackle unhealthy lockdown habits. With access to free insights and tips from our PAM Life wellbeing app.

Five ways to tackle unhealthy lockdown habits

1. Encourage self-care

The extent to which employees have become unhealthy shows just how much we’ve struggled with this last lockdown. People are already feeling anxious and exhausted, so it’s important that wellbeing advice doesn’t come across as telling them what to do. Or make them feel even worse about themselves.

Instead of jumping into nutrition and weight loss goals, encourage employees to think about self-care and things they can do to make themselves feel better. This could be going outside during the day to experience nature or taking five minutes to focus on breathing and relaxation. By encouraging people to focus on self-care and be kind to themselves, you can help them develop healthy coping strategies, instead of reaching for the wine or biscuits.

2. Get people to pace themselves

For most of the last year, people have been surviving as opposed to thriving and few people have the energy to take on another huge challenge. Those who attempt to go from couch potato to athlete overnight are likely to stumble, making them feel like there’s no point even trying. So it’s important to get people to pace themselves.

Encourage employees to work at their own pace and make incremental changes. For example, by going outside for a walk twice a day, instead of just once a day. Or by leaving their phone downstairs when they go to bed, so they’re not tempted to stay up late looking at it, which will make them tired and more likely crave sugar and carbs the next day. Incremental things that we can all do and build into our everyday lives.

3. Deploy positive peer pressure

After a year of living in elasticated waistbands and no summer holiday to get beach-ready for, people are lacking the motivation to get fit. They are also lacking the motivation that would have once been provided by exercising as part of a group or with friends. It might have been the only thing encouraging them to attend that yoga group or go on that run.

By bringing teams of employees together and encouraging them to work towards shared wellbeing goals, albeit virtually for now, you can help them to support and encourage each other. Numerous studies showing that people who work towards shared wellbeing goals are much more likely to succeed than people without this form of positive peer pressure.

4. Get managers on board

People are also more likely to look after their wellbeing if they know their employer wants them to do this and take care of themselves. To help create a culture where wellbeing is prioritised, encourage managers to have one-to-one catch ups with people and ask them how they’re feeling, instead of just talking about work priorities.

Ask managers to talk to people about what they’re doing to disconnect from work in the evening or at weekends, so they have time for themselves. As well as talk about what they’re personally doing to stay healthy to encourage employees to think about this also. It’s worth reminding managers that the healthiest workplaces not only experience less absence, but also save an average of 11.5 days of productive time per employee a year.

5. Utilise an employee wellbeing app

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing. Different people will have different challenge and needs. You could conduct a survey to try and work out what most people need. Alternatively, an employee wellbeing app is a powerful way of giving everyone immediate access to what they personally need most right now.

PAM Life is an employee wellbeing app, that contains hundreds of interactive wellbeing resources. Including healthy habit tools on nutrition, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy and mental health. Employees are guided towards resources, such as videos and courses from leading healthcare experts, via a dashboard based on their individual needs. PAM Life Group is a team version of the app that can be used to bring teams together for group wellbeing activities that boost engagement.