Business leaders urged to get smart to build a resilient workforce

Sales of Apple’s iPhone may have dropped for the first time since it was released in 2003, but the part mobile technology plays in so many aspects of our day-to-day lives continues to grow.

According to Ofcom’s Communications Market 2015 report, an estimated two thirds of UK adults now own a smartphone and, on average, mobile users spend nearly two hours a day online via their phones.

While the smartphone may well have created an “always on” culture, which places round-the-clock demands on professionals and allows for little respite from the stresses of the workplace, it also represents the solution to many employee health and wellbeing issues, says Brian Hall, managing director of BHSF Employee Benefits Limited.

Today’s business leaders are embracing the latest innovations in benefits technology to build a resilient workforce, and to drive down presenteeism and absenteeism, which can ultimately have an effect on the bottom line, says Mr Hall.

Employers must focus on empowering individuals to identify warning signs around their own wellbeing before it is too late – not least when it comes to mental health issues

“As trends in health and wellbeing change to meet the requirements of the modern workforce, it is becoming increasingly evident that the most effective human resources strategies are based on a proactive approach which prioritises prevention, the mitigation of risk and an emphasis on building resilience among employees,” he says.

“In our experience, only half of employees return to work after a three-month absence, so employers must focus on empowering individuals to identify warning signs around their own wellbeing before it is too late – not least when it comes to mental health issues.”

HR tools such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) are evolving and fast becoming an integral part of a pre-emptive approach to workplace health and wellbeing. The BHSF EAP, for example, has been modelled around the need to build resilience. A 24-hour helpline offers confidential access to a telephone counselling service 365 days a year, providing support on a host of mental health issues and emotional problems such as stress, debt and anxiety.

Picking up the phone to a counsellor is one of the first steps on the road to self-help, so the EAP has an important part to play in combating mental health problems.

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Our research shows employees who engage in and complete face-to-face counselling through the BHSF EAP report an average of 9.7 fewer hours of absence per month due to personal problems. We also see a 24 per cent reduction in absence, so the BHSF EAP makes perfect sense for both employers and employees.

However, simply offering an EAP is not enough, and business leaders must consider how best to engage individuals so they find it as easy as possible to take advantage of an employer’s health and wellbeing services at the point of need. At the heart of this is the issue of access, and how to ensure employees get value from HR initiatives and benefits. Healthcare apps, such as BHSF Connect, are solving this problem.

BHSF Connect was the first web app to wrap wellbeing benefits, such as an EAP, online health assessments and health information, around a lifestyle discounts platform featuring money-saving offers from hundreds of well-known brands.

The web app includes a GP helpline and online doctor service, which provides access to a fully qualified GP, over the phone or even via Skype, and which therefore has the potential to be a game-changer in the drive to reduce staff absences.

By far the biggest advantage of BHSF Connect is that it puts key services and benefits into the hands of employees so they can be speedily accessed any time of the day or night. This ease of access has the potential to make a difference to the lives of individuals, and to their health and wellbeing.

Through tapping the app, users can set up a one-to-one conversation with a GP or lawyer, or they can access information about local medical services, while discounted gym memberships also help to motivate employees to stay fit and well.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, more than 130 million days are lost to sickness absence every year and working-age ill health costs the economy £100 billion a year.

There has undoubtedly never been a better time for employers to get smart, and to embrace technology as part of a proactive health and wellbeing strategy focused on building a resilient workforce. This will not only prove successful in reducing the cost-burden on the business, it will also create a positive, engaged, productive culture.

For further information contact Rachael Chew or Sally Anderson at WPR
0121 456 3004