Almost a quarter of employees think their bosses don’t take employee wellbeing seriously, according to research by PwC among 2,000 UK workers. More than half said their employer didn’t offer any kind of health benefits at all.
That’s the problem. Employers see themselves as being on top of the issue, they get the link with performance and productivity, and know health and wellbeing needs to be part of the benefits mix. Their people, on the other hand, just see a bunch of standard and basic health benefits. They don’t feel the urgency, the activity, the ongoing commitment.
While employers can’t and shouldn’t take responsibility for the health of staff – it’s all a matter of give and take – people are looking for more. As the PwC research points out, wellbeing and its relation to their daily work lives is never far from their minds. More than a third said they were struggling with a health and wellbeing issue; and more than 80% felt their productivity was strongly linked to their wellbeing.
Here are five practical ways in which HR can set up an environment for health and wellbeing that has impact.
– Fight the lycra image: because too often health benefits are perceived to be for the minority, for those already signed up to getting fit, who want subsidised gym membership and shower facilities for cycling and running. Instead look at low-cost activities at different levels, to suit different people and and their routines: walking clubs and meetings, swimming and sports for fun, support for healthy eating.
– Offer health screening for all, not just the senior executives: nothing shouts louder to employees about genuine commitment to health than a universal offering of an annual, comprehensive health screen, involving the kinds of latest testing and breadth of screenings that people can’t access as standard through the NHS.
– Make use of data: demonstrate an ongoing interest and response to employee health issues by making pro-active use of data from health screenings. So each year the trends from anonymised data from screens can be publicised, fed into new health strategies and action in the form of targeted schemes.
– Don’t shy away from tackling mental health: issues of stress, anxiety and depression are so commonplace across workplaces (accounting for 45% of all lost working days says the HSE) it’s the central issue in terms of proving an understanding of the real issues facing staff. Policies on reporting and discussing issues relating to mental health need to be made transparent, and managers given the training to provide an initial level of support. Straightforward questionnaires are now being included as part of health screening to check-in on mental health without being intrusive.
– Tailor health checks: the traditional culture of benefits has meant health screening offerings being designed for senior executives, targeting men over 50 for heart disease and strokes – not so relevant, say, to women in their 20s thinking about pregnancy, or with worries about the serious risks from ovarian, breast and cervical cancer. Investment in health schemes are a waste if they aren’t tailored to the staff demographic, and if there isn’t an understanding of the positive health outcomes that will result.