Inspire spring 2021

The latest health and wellbeing news from Towergate Health & Protection

Welcome to the latest edition of Inspire, our quarterly newsletter, designed to keep you informed about issues and developments that are relevant to your business.

In this edition we explore HR perspectives about wellbeing in the workplace vs employees’ own beliefs, summarise the post-Brexit view of business, and give tips on how employees can create their own holiday from home.

With the end of the financial year incoming, we also discuss how your company can most effectively protect itself against cyber crime.

The hidden divide between companies and their employees

Some businesses appear to be significantly misinformed about the state of employee wellbeing. In a study of 1,600 employees and HR leaders1, Westfield Health found that while 35% of employees rated the mental wellbeing of the workforce as either ‘not good’ or ‘not good at all’, only 7% of HR leaders did.

Additionally, while HR leaders largely felt optimistic about workforce productivity levels, with 40% reporting that it was ‘very good’, only 20% of employees rated productivity the same way.

The misconceptions don’t end there, and in fact seem to stretch to the very heart of the workplace. When asked how they’d rate workplace morale, just 17% of staff thought it to be very good while that figure was over double for HR leaders at 41%.

While it’s evident that companies and their employees aren’t on the same wavelength when it comes to perceptions about workplace goings-on, it’s unclear why. With many businesses having migrated en masse to remote working in response to Covid-19, it’s possible that a lack of visibility is the reason; low mood, motivation and productivity are easier to conceal behind technology than in an in-office space.

Whatever the reason for the mismatch, poor employee wellbeing comes at a cost. It’s estimated that mental health issues alone cost each employer £1,035 per employee per year2 due to factors affecting their performance, like absenteeism and an unfocused mind.

Complicating matters is the fact that many employees struggling with their mental wellbeing are unwilling to be transparent, with a striking 95% of employees who call in sick with stress giving a different reason for needing time off.3

How to get companies and employees on the same wellbeing wavelength

The good news is that most HR leaders recognise the importance of wellbeing to a well-functioning workplace, and are more and more seeking out employee wellness schemes due to the benefits they reap. While 43% of organisations with a staff wellbeing programme rated productivity as ‘very good’, this was only true for 18% of those without one.

That said, while this recognition is critical, it doesn’t seem to be founded upon realistic views of how employees are faring at work. We’ve summarised Westfield Health’s recommendations for how to create a supportive and open workplace below.

The first step to increasing transparency amongst staff involves having an active process of wellbeing evaluation in the workplace. The second step is about implementing systems that encourage wellbeing to flourish.

Line managers are key to transparency

Line managers and team leaders tend to have an active involvement in the employee day-to-day, so they’re more likely to recognise changes in behaviour and morale. This is why, while HR monitors wider employee wellbeing, tuned-in, receptive line managers are key to getting the most accurate picture.

The following are red flags in employees that managers should look out for:

  • Camera consistently turned off
  • Contributing less to discussions
  • A newly negative outlook
  • More emotional than usual, e.g., short-tempered
  • Performance not up to usual standard

What makes a supportive workplace culture?

Rather than taking action once a problem has occurred, it’s important your workplace culture is conducive to wellbeing in the first place.

  • Develop genuine connections with your team by planning non-work related activities, scheduling regular 1:1s, or taking the time to have an informal chat
  • Make sure employees know where resources can be accessed. Struggling employees are likelier to seek out the relevant resources if they know precisely where they can be found, not just, as mentioned by Westfield Health, ‘somewhere on the intranet’
  • Learn how to be an empathetic listener. It’s OK to be solution-driven, but a large part of ensuring the emotional wellbeing of your team will be about listening and making your employees feel that they are heard. When you take your team’s thoughts and concerns seriously, they’ll feel encouraged to come to you again



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Holidays are more than exciting – they’re important

While the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout programme is on track and public venues are due to gradually open, going on holiday is still a distant idea.

We associate holidays with what we tend to do on them, like all-you-can-eat buffets and cocktails on the beach. Yet beyond the self-indulgence these activities represent, holidays are critical to wellbeing in a way that’s especially imperative at the current time.

A spike of 24% for online searches of burnout symptoms was seen throughout 2020 compared to the previous year,1 but pandemic-related factors seemed to only elevate burnout that already existed prior to the onset of Covid-19.2

Getting the opportunity to press pause on the stresses of working life is important to your employees’ psychological wellbeing. Leisurely evenings and weekends play a part in destressing, but they don’t allow employees the proper time to recharge if they’re suffering from legitimate burnout, stress or fatigue.

How to holiday from home

1. Take it seriously

The first thing employees will want to do is book the time off work. Many people want to save holiday time for ‘later’ – i.e., when travel isn’t restricted – but we don’t know when later will come. Also, it’s important that employees don’t postpone booking time off if they feel they need it just because external factors make having a traditional holiday more challenging.

Booking annual leave will also help to get them in that holiday mood, ensuring no distractions interrupt their leisure time.

2. Indulge

Since the usual luxuries of a holiday are temporarily stripped away, this is a chance for employees to compensate by not saying no to themselves whilst they’re off. This looks different to everyone; perhaps it means indulging in foods they’d normally moderate, not cooking a single meal or watching as many episodes as they want of their favourite TV show.

3. The world is their oyster

The beauty of basking at home for a holiday is that, unlike jetting off to just one location, employees can experience the beauty and history of as many regions as they’d like.

If they’re feeling the rhythms of the Caribbean one day, they could plan out the day’s menu accordingly with rum punch, pepperpot stew and order in some jerk chicken for the evening. If they’re in the mood to enjoy a slower pace of life another day, they could take a virtual trip to Sri Lanka; spend some time meditating, focus on being mindful or put their efforts towards the arts and learn to write their name in the visually pleasing language of Sinhala. They could even seek out a playlist featuring tracks from the country they’ve chosen to ‘visit’ and, for added cultural immersion, press play while cooking.

The next day it might be the rich culture of Greece they want to explore, so they could enjoy classic dishes like moussaka and souvlaki while watching cult-favourites like Mamma Mia, Shirley Valentine, This is Sparta or 300.



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Business beyond Brexit: the story so far

For 47 years the UK had unfettered access to the world’s largest single market. It’s perhaps no surprise that our withdrawal from the EU trading bloc would cause teething problems as companies tried to adapt to the – in some cases – huge structural changes to business operations within mandated timeframes.

The full UK-EU agreement is being implemented via staggered deadlines to allow businesses to get to grips with the changes gradually. This is one of the reasons Brexit is most accurately understood as a process, rather than an event1, that will continue to evolve throughout the year and beyond.

UK businesses grapple with the changed face of trade

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), which sets out the terms of trade between the now independent UK and the European Union, mandates new commercial regulations which many businesses – particularly SMEs – are struggling to adapt to.

Companies are confused about which of the TCA’s rules applies to them.2 In particular, many SMEs don’t understand the application of the new ‘rule of origin’ clause, whereby goods sold to the EU by UK businesses are now subject to VAT and import duties when a portion of those goods are made outside the UK or EU.3 This uncertainty has led to some companies pausing their exports to the EU – with a view to resuming once they’ve received more clarity – to avoid incurring fines.

Red tape restrictions have caused disruptions to both UK and EU businesses. From the UK perspective, extra paperwork related to incoming and outgoing exports has hiked up the cost of trading with the EU, with UK companies expected to pay an extra £7.5 billion a year as a result of new customs paperwork in what’s been termed an ‘administrative burden’.4 There are concerns that smaller and medium-sized companies may be forced to let some of their workforce go to account for these new bureaucracy-related costs.

European retailers have faced their own challenges selling to a post-Brexit UK, and have in some cases hiked up costs to reflect the changes in regulations while some EU businesses, like bicycle parts seller Dutch Bike Bits and Belgium ecommerce company Beer On Web, have stopped exporting to the UK altogether.5

Beginning April 1, there will be further rules for UK businesses to follow on goods subject to sanitary and phytosanitary checks, and by July the full extent of the EU-UK agreement will be in force. Yet there are a few important areas that the UK and EU haven’t yet agreed on.

What isn’t covered in the TCA?

There are a few key terms that aren’t included in the UK’s months-old agreement with the EU which have been detailed in a Healix report,6 and are summarised below. When agreements are eventually made in the following areas, they’re likely to be informed by the UK’s new status in the eyes of the EU; as a ‘third country’ – i.e., any country outside EU domain with whom the EU have a relationship – the EU is likely to take a conservative approach to future dealings that could mean unforeseen restrictions for UK businesses exporting to the EU.

1. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications

UK businesses who service EU clients now have to have their qualifications recognised by each member state they do business with. This is likely to complicate the provision of such services because mutual recognition laws tend to vary widely between individual EU regions.

2. Financial services

When the UK was a member of the EU, firms based in the UK could sell their financial services without having to adhere to additional regulations. Now that UK-based financial services have lost their passporting rights, it’s unlikely that firms will enjoy the same level of market access as before as the EU generally has stricter provisions towards external financial service providers (which the UK now is).

For those countries where legislation demands the use of a local broker, Towergate Health & Protection can work in partnership with an experienced local expert to support your employees on the ground through our Worldwide Broker Network (WBN) membership. This means we’d be able to maintain a global view of your overall business while meeting the local requirements of the country you are operating in.

3. Data transfers

Now that the UK is no longer part of the European Union, the UK will be subject to a data adequacy assessment to determine whether its data protection policies are up to EU standards.

The free flow of digital information is critical to business operations. Between 2005 and 2015, 75% of UK data transfers involved EU states.

The UK and EU have agreed to a four-month period whereby data is permitted to flow freely. Though this agreement can be extended to a total of six months while the EU conducts their assessment, the timeframe is still tight when considering that the quickest data adequacy agreement reached between the EU and another country (Argentina) took 18 months.

Key takeaways

As we make a full transition into post-Brexit trading reality, it’s imperative that SMEs ensure that they completely understand the applicable regulations in order to assuage unforeseen costs from EU trading. On a more holistic level, UK businesses should restructure their understanding of their business relationship with the EU to align with the UK's new standing as a ‘third party’ country, as they get to grips with not only the hows of the TCA but the whys of it, too.



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End of financial year? Prime time for cyber scams

The most common cyber scams are phishing related, where cyber criminals steal people’s passwords and credentials. Seemingly legitimate emails trick recipients into divulging details, which then give the hackers access to the network posing as authorised users.

Top-level executives are a prime target for these scams for a number of reasons.

How do scammers do it?

Firstly, CEOs and other executives usually have clearance for all sections of the network. This makes their credentials more valuable.

Secondly, busy executives often don’t notice that the email they’ve received is a scam because it looks legitimate. Because they’re so busy and the email seems to be from a trustworthy source, they often click on the links without thinking twice.

Thirdly, the end of financial year is a time when businesses often receive emailed invoices and other communications, so a CEO, CFO, or even CIO is potentially more likely to take these at face value. Sometimes, attackers create fake invoices that look so real, businesses simply pay them. It then becomes incredibly difficult to recover those funds. Make sure you constantly vet your internal processes and keep communicating to help improve your cyber security defences.

The key(s) to keeping your company protected

The key to a more successful cyber security stance is a combination of technology, people and processes. And, while many businesses have now invested in strong cyber security technologies, a breakdown in processes and human error are often to blame for successful cyber attacks.

To avoid falling victim, business leaders need to instil a strong culture of security in the organisation. To be successful, this needs to come from the top down. If an executive doesn’t take security seriously then neither will their staff.

To do this requires regular education for employees via training and informal reminders and tips. Businesses need to communicate frequently regarding current threats and standard safety procedures.

Successful training approaches go beyond focusing on compliance, which can be ineffective and not engaging for employees. Instead, companies should consider gamification to increase engagement and excitement around cyber security best practices.

Technology as a critical tool in cyber defence

You can go to Towergate Insurance Brokers’ cyber risk assessment to see if you are gambling with your cyber and data security and watch a short video. It’s also important to create an open culture when it comes to reporting potential breaches. Creating a punitive atmosphere only discourages people from coming forward in time to fix the vulnerability. Instead, organisations should praise staff for coming forward, then move quickly to address the breach.

Technology can help augment the people-based approach. For example, threat intelligence tools can automatically identify phishing sites and prevent employees from visiting them. This can help prevent leakage of password-based credentials to unknown sites, even if they aren’t officially categorised as phishing sites. Businesses should also use policy-based multifactor authentication enforced at the network level.

Importantly, everyone in the organisation, but especially management, must be aware that the end of the financial year is a peak time for cyber security scams. They need to remain extra vigilant during this time and refrain from clicking on links in emails, regardless of how legitimate they may look.

While your company should be ahead of the curve with security technology, making sure your people are aware of scams, trained, and your processes solid, can make your financial year end on calmer waters.

You can view the full cyber newsletter this article is taken from here.

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Latest news from the insurers

Have you heard the latest from the insurers?

Here are the most recent updates from some of the key providers, including Aviva, AXA Health, Bupa, Simplyhealth and Vitality.


5 February 2021 – Has the way we approach our finances changed in the last year?
Aviva looks at the different ways the pandemic has shaped spending habits, with some interesting variation in financial wellbeing due to factors including age, geography and type of work.

6 January 2021 – How to make your workplace benefits package work for all employees 
In this article, Aviva explores how company benefits can be used to give employees access to useful financial schemes, like stocks and shares ISAs and cash ISAs, and emphasises the value of pension contributions.

AXA Health

3 February 2021 - Music makes you feel good! AXA Health teams up with Alex Jones to get the nation moving with music
AXA Health is continuing its mission to improve people’s mental and physical wellbeing with its Feelgood Health campaign, this time through the power of music.


16 February 2021 – Bupa partners with Macmillan
Bupa Health Clinics has partnered with the cancer support charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, to provide counselling to people with cancer who are struggling to cope emotionally.

4 January 2021 – Switching off after work
With our homes now multi-purpose spaces for working, exercising and living, Bupa lists a few different ways you can teach your brain to shut off from work now you likely don’t have the daily commute to do that for you.


27 January 2021 – Vitality announces launch of car insurance together with Covéa Insurance
Vitality have announced they will enter into the car insurance market from the spring of 2021. Offered in addition to their health insurance, life insurance and investment products, this will be the latest business expansion from the insurer and be provided in partnership with Covéa Insurance.

20 January 2021 – Vitality and the vaccine: a response 
Vitality offers a direct response to a New York Times article that discusses the pressure healthcare workers face to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Best of the rest


8 January 2021 – Medicash celebrates 150 years of supporting the nation’s health 
Before the NHS was established, the first Hospital Sunday collection worked to raise funds for voluntary hospitals in desperate need. They then became Medicash, who in January of this year celebrated 150 years of helping to support the nation’s health.


22 January 2021 – Simplyhealth gifts Chromebooks to help local schools and families with online home schooling
In a move to help the most disadvantaged children of the community, Simplyhealth has gifted 200 Chromebook laptops to support local schools and families with online home schooling.

20 January 2021 - The Covid effect: 30 million Brits vow to focus on their long-term health amid concern for NHS in 2021 
30 million British people are taking on at least one health-related New Year’s Resolution this January to ‘do their bit’ for their health, their community and the NHS, according to new research from Simplyhealth.

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