There is always a lot of noise around keeping fit and eating well in January, but health and wellbeing support needs to go much further than this. It must be based on a proper understanding of the issues but also of the workplace demographic and the specific needs of the employees. To obtain a return on the investment in wellbeing, employers must ensure it is targeted and tailored.
Understanding the risks
The first step in prevention of illness – both mental and physical – is understanding the risks. Employers can implement a risk assessment regarding their employees’ health. This may be as simple as an anonymised health questionnaire. This will allow the employees themselves to understand what risks they face and how best to tackle them, as well as helping employers to know what support is required.
Providing preventative measures is by far the best way to deal with illness in the workplace in terms of being both cost effective and health effectual. Smoking cessation, alcohol management, and support for nutrition and fitness, all reduce the risks of illness occurring in the first place. Support for mental and musculoskeletal issues – two main of the main causes of both short- and long-term absence – can help to prevent smaller issues from becoming a more significant problem, as well as mitigating absence.
Screening is a vital part of any health and wellbeing programme. This may be an overall health assessment, or more specific screening for certain common cancers and diseases. The early detection of cancers in particular is intrinsically linked to better survival rates. With many cancers not having symptoms in the initial stages, screening is crucial.
Investing in wellbeing must cover all four pillars: physical, mental, financial, and social. While poor physical and mental health have obvious ramifications in the workplace, issues with financial or social health can also lead to a decline in physical and mental conditions, so the full spectrum must be considered and addressed.
Support is available for all aspects of health and wellbeing for employees, and when it is fully integrated and tailored, delivered by skilled and experienced health professionals, it has the most impact.
The coming year is going to be a testing one because of a number of issues, including NHS access and the cost of living. The key to helping employees to remain fit, well, and in work, is investment in purposeful, focussed wellbeing support that gives the assistance really needed by the individual demographic of the workforce.