Some of the biggest killers and health problems in the UK today – cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure – are heavily influenced by lifestyle factors. These are also the conditions that can have the most impact on an employee’s working life. For employers, the challenge is to engage the unengaged. Encourage those who are not already leading healthy lifestyles to connect, get involved and make positive changes.
Debra Clark, Head of Specialist Consulting at Towergate Health & Protection, said: “Preaching converts and recruiting employees who are already interested in their health and well-being is not a difficult task for employers. The challenge is how to engage the unengaged – employees who are less invested in the support that employers provide. It is crucial that employers think about how to proceed when developing their plans for the coming year if they are serious about ensuring that all of their staff are supported.
Health and wellness support must follow lifestyle changes. Over the past two years, access to face-to-face GPs has declined, working from home has increased and obesity levels have continued to climb.
Support needs to adapt to these new circumstances – for example, offering access to virtual GP appointments, fast-track physiotherapy solutions for musculoskeletal conditions and healthy eating/discount apps in shape.
Explain health benefits to employees
Simple, accessible health risk assessments (HRAs) online can help employees understand their personal risk factors and the simple steps they can take to reduce their health risks. ERS can also provide employers with a holistic view of the risks in their workforce, helping them prioritize their health and wellbeing strategy.
Clark said: “For younger generations, it can be about explaining that private medical insurance isn’t just about heart bypass surgery and hip replacements! Access to support can also be flexible – through apps and hubs, there is no need to include filling out paper forms.
The extras added to the basic health and wellness package can be invaluable in themselves. For example, an employee assistance program — which is often integrated with other employee benefits — that offers counseling and legal advice could be extremely beneficial for someone going through a divorce. The virtual GP service, which allows a child to be seen by a doctor the same day, could be a real benefit for a parent.
Clark concluded, “By doing some of the above things, employers will help the unengaged become more engaged. For employees to appreciate the health and wellness assistance they receive, both in monetary value and support, they need to connect with the positive results they can achieve. This will ensure maximum return on investment in the eyes of the employees and for the company, and it will only grow in importance.
Meanwhile, a study has shown that employees are hesitant to access health benefits due to fear of stigma.