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How these five ways to wellbeing can ease the return to work

By: Unum– the employee benefits provider

During this next transitionary phase, the likelihood of staff slipping back into old or bad work/life habits is fairly high. Indeed, according to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a shocking five million people with pre-existing mental health conditions fear returning to work when COVID-19 restrictions are eased[1].

This is where Five Ways to Wellbeing — a report from The New Economics Foundation that sets out five simple steps that have become a framework for good mental and physical wellbeing — offers helpful guidelines for staff to maintain a healthy work/life balance as we adapt to a post-lockdown working world.

  1. Be active

Being active is not only great for you physically but can also help manage stress, depression, and anxiety,[2] making it a vital part of self-care. By reducing stress and increasing energy levels, physical activity makes us feel more alert and can help us sleep better.[3] But you don’t need to spend hours exercising — there are so many benefits to just taking time out of your daily schedule even for a short walk for example.

The key is to find activities you enjoy and make them part of your routine; this is especially important if the post-lockdown world means ongoing remote working. The health risks of sitting all day are very real,[4] so it pays to figure out a simple routine that fits in well with your work/life commitments.

  1. Connect

Although we’ve moved to living life in more of a digital world, it’s important connect on a personal level with others.

Good relationships — whether that’s with family, friends, partner, colleagues or anyone else — are important for our mental wellbeing,[5] giving us a sense of belonging and making us feel valued. They allow us to share positive experiences with others as well as providing valuable emotional support. It’s also important to be able to recognise if you’re experiencing burnout in your personal or professional relationships so you can make positive changes and maintain fulfilling and meaningful connections.

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  1. Give

Small acts of kindness and charity can help improve our wellbeing as it helps create feelings of positivity and gives us a sense of reward and purpose.[6] Becoming a mentor at work and passing on your knowledge and skills is another way to do this.

  1. Keep learning

Learning new skills and increasing our knowledge can boost mental wellbeing and happiness,[7] whilst the practise of setting goals in relation to adult learning is strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing and an improvement in ability to cope with stress.[8] So why not take some time to understand the benefits of keeping your skills current at work and how to manage your career by knowing what you want?

  1. Take notice

This is when we stop hurrying from task to task or one place to the next and stop to reflect, actively bringing our attention and interest to the world around us or to ourselves and being present in the moment. Studies show that being aware of what is taking place in the present, also known as mindfulness, directly enhances our wellbeing.[9]


The five steps from The New Economics Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing report offers a great framework for staying mentally and physically well, but what can employees do to meet these goals? And how can employers encourage these positive changes within their workspaces?

Unum’s employee assistance programme, provided by LifeWorks,* is a great resource packed with ways to help staff achieve each of these 5 steps so they can maintain a healthy work/life balance. In addition, Unum offers a separate Wellbeing Check that provides 1-2-1 expert guidance and self-management techniques for employees who may be struggling with their wellbeing.

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