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We are embedding health and well-being at the heart of our business strategy because our people are our greatest asset, and we recognize that a healthy, happy and committed workforce is vital to our business success.

- Alex Gourlay, MD, Boots UK

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided many employees with new and more flexible options on where, when and how they work, with working from home enforcements across Europe. But it has also challenged their physical / mental health, productivity, and ability to communicate effectively at work.

In 2020, International Labour Organisation estimated that 2.7 billion employees – 81% of the global workforce – were subject to full or partial lockdown measures.  This move prompted an exponential rise in digital communications, operations and processes – for example the number of users on one online video conference platforms increased by a factor of 20, to 200 million worldwide, in one month.

While there are many benefits associated with remote working, it is vital that employers do not underestimate the negative impacts that digital working practices can have on employee wellbeing. In Poland, workers took a combined total of 14.9 million days of sick leave due to mental and behaviour disorders between January and September 2020, which was almost 50% more than in the same period in 2019, according to data from the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS).  Moreover, multitasking and constant notifications are associated with lower levels of creativity and concentration, on top of the difficulty of effective interpersonal communication causes higher levels of stress and loneliness. Collectively called “technostress” these issues are caused both by the technology AND by organisational expectations, and lead to deterioration in productivity/performance and in employees’ mental and physical health.

While legislation surrounding employee, wellbeing is coming down the pipeline for many EU members states, SMEs are still slow to respond. Polish SME’s in particular lack the interest in the growing importance of employee wellbeing, a recent article stated that aside with complying with minimum health and safety, anything more “is not normal in Poland.” More needs to be done. Studies find that while 23 per cent of firms with 5,000-plus staff increased provision of mental health initiatives, barely one in ten of SMEs have. Hence the need for our Digi Work Well project, which aims to research and address the issue of digital wellbeing in the work place through various educational resources.

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