Courtney Marsh: A focus on workplace wellbeing

Workplace wellbeing is now well and truly established, bringing with it an increased focus on how organisations can keep their staff happy and healthy. Employers now appreciate that a business is only as good as its people, and if they are engaged and full of energy, performance and productivity will increase, regardless of industry, but how do we get there?

We could take a leaf out of the USA’s book, where corporate wellness schemes are big business. Integrating physical, mental and emotional wellbeing practices into performance management is proven to help organisations create working environments where employees are motivated, productive and thriving in their careers.

While strategically placing a bowl of fruit in the office kitchen or encouraging a lunchtime stroll round the block are certainly good starting points, we need to take it further if we are to tackle growing absenteeism in the UK. Overall wellbeing is not just about being happy in body, but also happy in mind and pocket.

The latest estimate from the Labour Force Survey, published in November 2016, shows that workplace stress, anxiety and depression accounts for a staggering 11.7 million lost working days, while employee absence costs UK businesses more than £12.7 billion each year, according to an analysis of ONS statistics and findings from the Employee Benefits/Health Shield Healthcare research 2017, published in September 2017. So, while addressing diet and activity levels is essential, we also need to recognise when the mental health of employees is suffering and provide support wherever possible.

Of course, the difficulty of spotting signs of mental health issues among employees should not be underestimated and it is much more than noting when a colleague is in a bad mood or feeling low. To assist with this, it is important to have a clear strategy in place that outlines how an organisation addresses staff wellbeing, allowing employees to access the right resources at the right time.

For instance, setting up a health cash plan means employers can contribute to helping with daily stresses and worries, helping to overcome these at the earliest possible point, which will hopefully result in lower absentee levels and a boost in productivity. With around one in five employers stating that their average member of staff calls in sick for more than five days per year, it is important for employers to explore what options are available to combat such problems.

Traditionally, such health cash plans are used for dental check-ups, eye tests and physiotherapy and, while these services are, of course, a key part of keeping employees in tip-top condition, it is important that employers promote the availability of other benefits too.

Health cash plans can offer cashback on a range of services that enable employers to provide early intervention through preventative services to their employees, reducing the chances of their issues getting worse. For example: 24/7 counselling helpline, offering professional advice on everything from stress to personal finances; workplace health screening; stress prevention programmes; cancer screening, for the six most common types of cancer; virtual GP surgery; physio triage.

Workplace health screens and counselling, in particular, are essential for nipping any potential problems in the bud before they are allowed to develop into major issues that could seriously affect an employee’s wellbeing.

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Not only will a health cash plan offer employees support when they need it most, but the introduction of such a scheme shows staff that their employer is committed to improving their wellbeing and that they are much more than ‘another worker’. This will help boost loyalty and staff satisfaction which, in turn, will increase productivity.

Courtney Marsh is commercial director at Health Shield

Health Shield Friendly Society Limited and Health Shield Wellbeing is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.