AN INSURER which employs 1,000 people in Hampshire has introduced a bot to support staff with their physical and mental health.

Ageas Insurance – which a large base at Eastleigh – says its new artificial intelligence (AI) creation acts as a personal wellbeing buddy.

It gives staff “nudges” that can benefit their health, including reminding them to take screen breaks or catch up with a colleague.

The bot, created in-house by Ageas, also talks to employees about everything from staying hydrated to conditions such as seasonal affective disorder.

It was developed in response to the pandemic, which has seen around 90 per cent of Ageas’ employees working from home since March last year.

Lyn Nicholls, human resources director at Ageas, said: “Looking after our health and wellbeing is more important than ever.

“To help our people take even better care of themselves, we’ve developed a friendly AI creature, who will act as their own personal wellbeing bot.

“Of course, we still have a range of human support available, including our mental health first aiders and employee assistance programme.

“We’re pleased to add this new initiative to our growing list of ways we’re supporting our people.”

Ageas employee Steve Croucher, who also works as one of Ageas’ mental health first aiders, said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea.

“We all need to be motivated with new ideas of how we can look after our physical and mental health.

“We may have started off this pandemic time with good intentions and habits but, for some of us, those may have gone out the window so it’s great to have regular reminders.”

The mental wellbeing of staff has been a focus for Ageas during the pandemic.

The company has provided access to mental health first aiders and organised a range of support and activities which have included fitness challenges, leadership wellbeing webinars, online groups for parents and wellbeing guides.

It has not furloughed any staff and is continuing to support workers at home, as well as the small number who remain in its offices.