- Inclusive wellbeing programmes should not just be tick-box exercises and employers should not assume that one-size-fits-all.
- Employees need to be able to access benefits and information wherever they are based in order for a strategy to be inclusive.
- Employers must bear in mind employees with specific accessibility requirements when displaying benefits information.
With the introduction of support for gender transition, fertility and menopause policies, as well as specific help for remote employees, it could be argued that health and wellbeing strategies have become more inclusive. But how do employers ensure they have created, and can maintain, a health and wellbeing strategy that meets the needs of all members of their workforce?
Creating a strategy
To create a truly inclusive health and wellbeing strategy, employers should start by conducting a thorough assessment to understand their workforce’s diverse needs and challenges through surveys, focus groups or interviews. Different age groups and demographics should be considered. It is important not to assume that one-size-fits-all and not to view inclusive wellbeing programmes as a tick-box exercise.
Analysing absence, health and benefits take-up data can also help employers start to understand unmet needs and consider how best to respond to these, says Steph Parton-Corr, health and benefits client relationship director at Willis Towers Watson.
“Employers can identify disparities in employee experience or health outcomes among minority groups and look to address these through targeted communications or by introducing new benefits,” she says. “A health and wellbeing strategy must align with wider culture, respond to challenges and address the root causes of stress or ill health. It is also vital to regularly review it to ensure it moves forward with evolving needs and priorities.”
Ideally, employers will be able to provide a range of comprehensive health and wellbeing strategies and benefits that meet the unique needs of their employees. This includes mental health services, preventive care and accommodations for employees with disabilities, says Jamie Styles, director of people and culture at Koa Health.
“To promote employee engagement, employers must actively encourage open dialogue to discuss the available benefits and their advantages,” he says. “It’s also important to reduce stigma. Employers can facilitate easier access with self-serve tools, which offer support tailored to individual needs at employees’ convenience. These are particularly pertinent to those who may not require face-to-face specialist help but would benefit from support.”
Take up barriers
Employers should evaluate their organisation’s culture and work environment at the implementation stage to identify any potential obstacles and barriers to take up, such as high workloads, accessibility, lack of work-life balance and stigma surrounding health issues.
Employers will need to regularly assess data on how employees are using current health and wellbeing programmes or initiatives, adds Styles.
“It’s important to look for patterns or trends that indicate low participation rates or drop-offs in use and examine factors such as timing, accessibility, convenience, communication channels, and specific features that may be affecting engagement,” he says.
Under utilisation of benefits is often due to employees being unaware of an option available to them or not understanding it. Making a scheme straightforward and easy to access for everyone helps drive usage and inclusion.
Employers should, therefore, communicate health benefits in different channels and mediums to engage all types of workers and improve take up, says Emma Capper, UK wellbeing leader at Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing.
“Events in the calendar can be used as springboards to promote benefits. For example in Mental Health Awareness Week, employers can signpost mental health support,” she says.
For a strategy to be inclusive, employees need to be able to access benefits and information wherever they are based. For example, if there is an office health kiosk, home testing kits could be provided for remote workers. Having a single, centralised hub that they are regularly reminded of is a good idea, while digital options open up support to those unlikely to seek out traditional in-person care because of stigma, time or money constraints.
Benefits information should be displayed in a way that supports employee groups with specific accessibility requirements, such as those who are blind, colour blind or otherwise visually impaired, for example.
Employers should present details in a simple and clear way that is accessible and easily digestible, as this will help neurodiverse employees, adds Capper. “Similarly, present any information in video or webinar format in calm background colours like cream, grey or beige to avoid potential triggering.”
As well as making benefit information easy to find on their intranet, employers could consider workplace wellbeing ambassadors, says Parton-Corr.
“They can serve as valuable source of information, provide guidance on where to find and access health and wellbeing benefits and resources, and help promote what is available,” she says.
When creating or reviewing a health and wellbeing strategy, employers should consider where their employees work, any accessibility issues they may have and how they promote their offerings. Only then will it truly be inclusive to all of their workforce.