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Courtney Marsh

Health Shield

Commercial Director & Interim CEO

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How and why wellbeing proactivity pays


A proactive approach to employee wellbeing shouldn’t just be for the privileged few, says Courtney Marsh, Commercial Director of Health Shield. No matter the size of your company or budget, it can be a reality for all.

Everyone’s talking about wellbeing these days. Yet how many employers are still paying lip-service to it? And how many only consider putting support and services in place in reaction to illness or injury? The fact is that whilst the majority are talking the talk, still only a minority are walking the walk when it comes to taking a strategic and proactive approach.

Nearly nine in 10 employers state that absence negatively affects their business – yet only four in 10 have a formal wellbeing strategy in place, according to Health Shield’s ‘Exploring wellbeing needs in the workplace’ research conducted last year.

Evidence that proactivity matters

It’s a fact that all of The Sunday Times Top 100 invest in the wellbeing of their workplaces. So a wellness focus equates to a nicer place to work from an employee perspective.

It is a vital aspect these days considering that companies no longer define their own brands, and instead employees bestow it upon them. This, in turn, can make or break a company’s reputation with the inevitable knock-on effect on recruitment and retention.

What’s more, a focus on wellness could equate to a more profitable company too. According to a recent article in The Telegraph, London startup Soma Analytics found that FTSE 100 businesses that used the words ‘mental health’ or ‘wellbeing’ more than twice in their annual reports enjoyed a mean profit of £1.4tn, three times that (at £563bn for the year) of those that didn’t use such phrases.

The study pushes forward the argument that the more a company holds itself publicly accountable for the wellbeing of its employees, the more they will invest in it. This, in turn, is in investors’ interests, with sick days and lost productivity costing billions of pounds each year.

Wellbeing at a tipping point?

According to a Deloitte report published last year businesses are currently at a tipping point with regards to wellbeing, in a trend that is similar to that of Corporate Responsibility (CR) in the 1990s. It took some time, but now CR is seen as a strategic and integral part of a company brand. References to it appear in every company’s report and accounts.

In order for wellbeing to get to this stage though, certain implementation barriers need to be overcome, according to the report. These may be summarised as follows:

  • Allocate a post dedicated to mental health and wellbeing in the business.

  • Make an executive level statement. For example, sign the government’s Time to Change corporate pledge. This campaign introduced free organisational health checks – an audit process and tool to help employers identify key gaps in workplace wellbeing provision and create a business case for taking action.

  • Develop and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). There are various tools available to help such as the charity Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index. This is a benchmark of best policy and practice and will publicly rank employers on how effectively they’re addressing staff mental wellbeing. There’s also the Business In The Community (BITC) and Public Health England Mental Health Toolkit for employers to help organisations track quantifiable measures at baseline and over time.

Tailored benefits & services

So, once these barriers have been overcome, what practical measures can employers take to help target benefits and services to their employee’s needs, especially where budget might be prohibitive?

There’s a growing train of thought that wellbeing in the workplace should begin from day one of an individual’s employment, not once a health issue has been established, or on reaching a certain level of seniority.

Health screening is a great way of achieving this in a way that allows for tailoring solutions, in terms of raising personal awareness and signposting to appropriate support and services. This can be achieved in a very simple way via a pre-commencement/new starter health questionnaire, followed up with annual health screening for all employees.

The latter can now start from as little as £35 per employee and are recommended as best practice for any company seeking to maintain the health and wellbeing of employees in the long-term.

The kind of support and services to which health screening can signpost – and employers can facilitate – can be many and varied. Virtual GP consultations, Employee Assistance Programmes and Health Cash Plans, for example, all offer preventative benefits and services that may be used on an everyday basis, and are relatively inexpensive for employers to provide.

Mandatory reporting?

The time could be ripe to take a preventative focus on wellbeing. In 2017 the CIPD published a research report that looked at the value of measuring, reporting and benchmarking the health and wellbeing of employees.

It called on the government to establish Human Capital Reporting Standards for companies to embed into annual reporting. It also called on employers to shift from one-off wellbeing initiatives to a proactive employee wellbeing programme.

It’s not mandatory yet, but why wait?

Author Profile Picture
Courtney Marsh

Commercial Director & Interim CEO

Read more from Courtney Marsh

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