As employers navigate the uncertainty created by the pandemic, the need to support colleagues with inclusive wellbeing initiatives is central to the conversation around the future of work. Yet many employers struggle to achieve the inclusive, holistic, preventative approaches that will really make a difference.
In this piece, Pippa Andrews, Director Corporate Business, Vitality outlines three steps you can take to ensure your wellbeing rewards and benefits meet the diverse needs of your workforce.
Employee benefits have been around since mid-last century. They cover everything from basic guaranteed pay and set working hours, to more complicated provisions such as pensions and share schemes. They’ve evolved significantly since their introduction, and nowadays, employees are likely to expect much more from their employer.
With the spotlight now firmly on healthy living, businesses certainly have a big role to play in this, considering that we spend around a third of our lives at work. It’s no surprise then, that benefits related to wellbeing, like private healthcare and flexible working, are high on the list of must-haves among employees.
Although employer-provided private healthcare isn’t a new phenomenon, when the right principles are applied, its role in overall workplace wellness can’t be understated. When you start to think about healthcare, the focus shouldn’t just be on cover for illness – but rather a more holistic view that looks at all angles of health and wellbeing – from prevention to early intervention and includes everyone in the business.
Sometimes, healthcare cover is only given to senior staff and executives. However, research from the International Longevity Centre UK suggests that because of health inequality, it’s your less affluent staff that are more likely to suffer poor health. Healthy living should not just be for the more senior or affluent members of the workforce. Businesses have the opportunity to bridge the gap and create a more level playing field, at least in the working environment.
Wellbeing programmes are also more effective when the whole employee population takes part, according to findings from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace. Plus, healthier employees are happier and more engaged and productive, so having the right support in place for the right people is fundamental to success.
Step one: Get a picture of employee health
First, understand the health of your workforce. This will be hugely beneficial in helping you deliver suitable provisions. Senior, better financed, staff may be least in need of healthcare support, widening your view to include everyone will be much more impactful.
Start by offering health assessments that give you an overview of lifestyle habits – activity levels, stress levels, smoking, drinking and diet among your workforce, as well as checking baseline health measurements like blood pressure, BMI and weight, cholesterol and blood sugar. This will help to identify the most common issues and anyone who may be at risk.
Step two: Tailor your interventions
You can then start to craft your healthcare provision to your employees’ specific needs and offer the right interventions to those who need them.
Interventions can range from access to smoking cessation and healthy weight loss programmes, to gym and fitness gear discounts and money-off healthy food. As mental health is as important to overall wellness as physical health, mindfulness can be practiced through a choice of apps, as well as access counselling and Talking Therapies. A comprehensive private healthcare pathway can also be provided should serious illness strike.
You could also consider interventions suitable for specific life phases, like pregnancy and menopause. Recognising that people may need additional considerations at these times and making the right support available will help keep them engaged.
Step three: Create healthy habits for life
The obvious benefit to tailored health intervention is healthier employees who are more engaged and productive. You don’t just want a temporary effect, but rather help to build healthy long-term habits leading to longer, healthier lives.
We’ve found that incentives are a good way to do this – rewarding healthy behaviour regularly to encourage it to continue long-term. Our members and employees can earn points when they exercise, practice mindfulness and go for health checks, and these points go towards rewards like cinema visits, hot drinks, Apple Watch, Amazon Prime membership and at-home TV streaming.
Again, it’s important to offer rewards that match the diversity of your workforce – not everyone will be interested in the same things. To get started, you may want to survey your staff to understand what types of rewards are likely to motivate or interest them and develop the programme based off the results.
Actively promoting and facilitating healthy living will ultimately help to build a positive and engaging culture in your business. This will not only benefit you, but your employees and society more generally through better health and habits.
About the author
Pippa Andrews is Director Corporate Business with Vitality.
You might also be interested in this report: