Future success depends on a healthy, motivated workforce, says Patrick Watt, corporate director, Bupa UK
With more than 31 million people working in the UK, workplaces provide a great opportunity to reach millions of people and support them to improve their health and wellbeing.
In fact, 85 per cent of UK workers say their employer has a responsibility to look after their health and wellbeing. This is not a surprise when almost two thirds (63 per cent) of employees say their work life has a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
Despite this, many employers aren’t engaging their employees in their health and wellbeing, and are missing out on the benefits this can bring. In fact, two in five UK companies (40 per cent) offer no health or wellbeing benefits and three in 10 (28 per cent) employees said that, when it comes to wellbeing, their company is all talk but no action.
Yet, Bupa’s latest research shows that almost two thirds (60 per cent) of UK workers admit, if they felt happy at work, they would be more productive and over half (55 per cent) would feel more focused. Employees who are engaged in their health are more likely to perform well, have lower healthcare costs and take fewer sick days.
What should employers be doing?
While some UK employers realise that future success depends on a healthy, motivated workforce, far more need to take action and lead the way in supporting every employee to take the right steps to keep healthy and well, and reduce future health risks.
Smart employers know that healthy employees come to work, perform at their peak and go the extra mile
Businesses need to take action and think beyond health insurance and traditional health benefits. Greater focus must be placed on creating an environment where employees are engaged and supported to lead healthier life styles and keep well, both physically and mentally. Not only will this benefit the individual, but smart employers know that healthy employees come to work, perform at their peak and go the extra mile.
How can employers engage an entire workforce?
We understand that helping to improve the health and wellbeing of an entire workforce can present a huge challenge – this could mean engaging with employees who are on the road every day or travelling the world and rarely in the office – but it’s a challenge that must be overcome.
Engaging employees in a way that is familiar and accessible is the answer. Our research shows that three in five (58 per cent) workers would be encouraged to think more about their health and wellbeing if their employer provided them with digital technology to help them do this.
Gamification can help drive long-term behaviour change and collaborating or competing with friends and colleagues can be an effective way to help achieve results. In fact, more than half (57 per cent) of workers admit they would feel more motivated to achieve their health and wellness goals if they could team up with colleagues.
This is why we have developed Bupa Boost, a new digital innovation designed to support employers to improve the health and wellbeing of their entire workforce, from the chief executive to front-line staff. Designed as a mobile platform, employees are encouraged to set personal goals, monitor their activities and progress against colleagues and friends, and motivate and inspire them, as well as integrating data from other apps and wearables.
Employers themselves benefit from receiving anonymised data, helping them to better understand the health and wellbeing priorities of their workforce. Organisations can then set challenges that address employee needs and create workplace initiatives on the health issues which matter most to their people.
Bupa Boost was designed to enable employers to create a more positive and proactive health culture across their organisation, improving employee engagement and motivating entire workforces behind health and wellbeing initiatives in a fun, engaging and accessible way. Not only does improving the health and wellbeing of employees drive productivity, but it also enables companies to position themselves as an employer of choice, attracting and retaining talent.
What about dealing with illness when it occurs?
According to the Office for National Statistics, musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, such as back and neck pain, were the leading cause of lost working days in 2013. This was closely followed by stress, anxiety and depression, with 15 million working days lost. With more than 131 million working days lost in total, it’s clear why employers need to take action.
Absence should not be the trigger for an employee to seek help. Employers need to create an environment where staff are supported to adopt healthier lifestyles, keep well and reduce the chances of them becoming ill in the first place.
However, if an employee does become unwell, early intervention is key. It’s critical that employees are supported to receive fast and effective treatment at an early stage. This is why we enable our insurance customers and those with Business Fit to self-refer – gaining access to mental health and MSK support for back, neck and joint pain, without the need to see a GP for a referral – ensuring employees are helped to recover more quickly.
Do employees really want this level of service from their employer? The facts say they do. Health insurance was rated the top health and wellbeing benefit by UK employees, and more than three quarters (78 per cent) of employees say they would welcome support from their employer to think about their health and wellbeing.
Acting now has never been so important. We know that by taking workplace health and wellbeing seriously, and creating a preventative culture, employers can reap the long-term benefits of having a strong, motivated workforce who perform at their peak and help drive business results. It’s a win-win for everyone.
For more information visit: www.bupa.co.uk/bupa-boost