At the start of 2020 no-one had heard of COVID-19, and a pandemic was something that happened in history, when there were no drugs or vaccinations. Three months later the disease has spread across the globe, approximately half the world population is under lockdown, economies have ground to a halt, and life has completely changed.
Everyone has had to adjust during the COVID-19 crisis, including companies and employees all across the world. Teleworking has suddenly become standard, as have the logistics of reaching out to workers everywhere, to help them in any way possible and to keep them healthy.
Cigna is playing a crucial part in the health of globally mobile employees: we know the immense value of having a well and healthy workforce. COVID-19 makes this ever more crucial. People are the greatest asset of any company, and protecting them is the best way of protecting the company.
Cigna is covering individuals with COVID-19 as every other disease within plan benefits. Arjan Toor, CEO of Cigna Europe, underlines this point: “We are treating this as any disease or infection an individual might get in the course of their assignment overseas, we are not excluding it because it is a pandemic. The health of our clients and members is our chief concern.”
The staff and support teams at Cigna have quickly adapted to COVID-19, responding rapidly to the new reality. As a result, they have identified a number of trends that have become clear in this pandemic. Dr Inge Schrever (Medical Doctor at Cigna) highlighted the main ones:
- Telehealth is on the rise, and is probably here to stay. After years of relatively slow take-up, there has been a rapid leap in interest and use, especially for medical consultations and in some cases paramedical areas, such as psychotherapy
- Cigna is adapting in pace with these developments: providing access to a wide range of services (including TeleHealth and IEAP)
- Chronic disease patients might have more problems than others, as access to care in many locations is at risk, due to COVID-19 planned care has been delayed or even cancelled.
- Stay in touch with Cigna through your App; use our telehealth facilities for help.
- Make sure you have enough medication for your chronic condition. As in some countries borders are closed, it might be more difficult to obtain the regular medication. If this happens, please discuss with your treating physician on alternative options
- Please make sure to closely monitor your clinical management and current needs with your treating doctor. Keeping in touch with your doctor and follow his/her instructions is crucial.
- Your medication is key. Having your medication available and taking it as directed by your doctor allows you to manage your chronic condition and maintain the best possible health for yourself.
- Evacuation is becoming increasingly difficult especially for COVID-19 patients. In remote locations with poor health services evacuation with the first symptoms of COVID-19 might be recommended as the process takes more time.
- Cigna is working with specialist partners to overcome the barriers and arrange evacuations as speedily as possible. We remain in constant contact with the patient and family by phone, by App, updating, reassuring and providing medical advice throughout.
- Anxiety and mental health issues are on the rise, which is to be expected given the pressures and risks caused by the pandemic that are often worse for globally mobile people who are far from family, friends and home.
- Well-being and mental health are integral to the Cigna package of benefits and services: we firmly believe that every person is better for being in the best mental health possible.
We have not only seen positive trends: Internet fraud has long been a problem, but COVID-19 has made it worse: medicines and treatments are being promoted by dishonest and illegal outlets. So please be careful what you order/buy
Beware! Check with Cigna before buying anything!
Supporting the team
Cigna is a team, and we believe all companies are teams. The health, well-being and peace of mind of our employees, customers and partners remains our top priority. At Cigna, we have implemented a number of measures for our employees across the world, including home working, actively promoting a dedicated online hub with up-to-date & locally relevant updates across the 10 offices, including Nairobi, Madrid and Glasgow And we did all of that ahead of any airline and government restrictions.
These are core steps to preserve team health that we recommend all our clients and members follow, as possible. A team based around the globe is still a team that needs to be encouraged and cherished. This is especially true when people are sitting in separate spaces: keep up the human contact. Ensuring all employees know the company is there for them is very important in this time of crisis.
For those seeking to help staff members and provide resources to deal with this pandemic, global employee assistance programs and employee support networks can be a great help.
At Cigna, we encourage use of our Employee Assistance Program: it is a free and confidential benefit for our employees and their household members with a range of services. These include:
- Using an in-house team of telephone councillors and case managers to deliver a wide range of support and advisory services.
- Having 24/7 access via free phone, SMS text and confidential email.
- Offering a dedicated line manager support service – ManagerAssist – to offer advice and support on any managerial issues or challenges.
Such a program ensures staff that even in a pandemic, there is an outlet for fear and frustration within the company, as well as a strong pillar of support.
It’s good to talk: Stay in touch during isolation
Fear and frustration are common in this pandemic, for good reason: COVID-19 is an unseen enemy, that is forcing billions into lockdown. Many if not most of us are no longer used to spending 24/7 with our families, or on our own, in isolation – and also working from home. Fear and frustration are natural.
Speaking with your colleagues is a great way of staying in touch during isolation. Social interactions with colleagues don’t have to stop once you are working from home. In today’s world, we are lucky enough to have plenty of ways to maintain contact outside of the office.
You can still have the water cooler chats and desk banter, but done through Apps like Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. Keep in touch with colleagues and employees; make sure they are all doing ok. Keep in mind many are probably lonely, especially if they are far from their home country, and are unable to return home.
Distance and loneliness are especially difficult for globally mobile people with elderly parents, who may need help or care. Reach out to these people; companies can help their teams care for the elderly, and Cigna can help too. Telehealth is a good answer for the elderly sick and anxious, while a phone call from a friend just to say hi is always a help.
A pandemic is a global crisis, by definition. Be it in Europe or Asia, Africa or America, we are all faced with challenges during COVID-19. Companies have a very important role to play by not only looking after the health and wellbeing of their customers, but also of their staff members.
It is an incredibly important time for companies to carry out their duty of care, especially for their globally mobile employees.
At Cigna we are closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. As the crisis continues, we are in regular communication with our clients, brokers and customers to remind them of their benefits and coverage, and to guide them to medical support and resources to help them manage their health and wellbeing.
As well as helping our employees, providing support for our clients and customers is also highly important for us at this time. We recently co-hosted a series of informative webinars with our partners. The virtual sessions gave people the chance to find out more about the actions we’re taking to support our customers around the world deal with COVID-19. There was also time for those in attendance to post questions to our panel of health experts.
Arjan Toor, CEO of Cigna Europe, speaks for us all: “At this difficult time our thoughts continue to be with everyone in all affected regions. At Cigna, we are working around the clock to keep our clients, our members and our employees safe, secure and above all healthy.”
- Cigna, Employee Assistance Program - https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/member-resources/employee-assistance-program
- World Health Organization. Global Burden of Disease. Global Health and Aging, October 2011. https://www.who.int/sustainable-development/health-sector/strategies/telehealth/en
- Global Telemedicine Market size to exceed $130.5 Bn by 2025. Global Market Insights. Updated 16 March 2019. Accessed 22 August 2019. https://www.gminsights.com/pressrelease/telemedicine-market.
- Stress at the workplace – World Health Organization - https://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/stressatwp/en/
- 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Page 12 - https://wellbeing.cigna.com/360Survey_Report.pdf
- 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Page 4 - https://wellbeing.cigna.com/360Survey_Report.pdf
- Stress Contributes To Range Of Chronic Diseases, Review Shows - Science Daily - https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071009164122.htm