Healthy habits: Reaping the benefits of health-related resolutions


Need to know:

  • There are many options employers can offer to help support healthy resolutions, including gym memberships, health cash plans and free fruit. 
  • Buy-in from senior management can create a supportive culture and ensure the success of a programme. 
  • Support for employees’ health improvement in the new year should be part of a wider wellbeing programme. 

Whether getting fit, cutting back on alcohol or stopping smoking, January is the prime time to think about improving health and wellbeing 

Providing effective support can help staff stick to their resolutions, while also delivering benefits for the employer in the form of increased productivity and reduced absenteeism, among others.  

Educating and facilitating

Support from an employer might take the form of education and information. This could cover everything from healthy diets and fitness regimes to building up resilience and boosting wellbeing in their workspace.   

Employers can also encourage good habits through benefits and perks, such as gym memberships, smoking cessation programmes and health cash plans. 

Technology can be a boon, particularly considering the availability of apps that enable staff to track their health, or even compete against their colleagues.  

Bupa Boost, for example, provides employees with support around mindfulness, nutrition, relaxation and fitness. Dr Petra Simic, interim medical director at Bupa, says: “Employees can use this to improve their health in these areas. It makes health and wellbeing fun and engaging.”   

Workplace support

There are changes that can be made in the workplace to make it easier for those trying to adhere to their resolutions. Free fruit, lunch clubs and healthy meals in the canteen can help staff improve their diet, for example, while walking meetings, stair-climbing challenges and lunchtime walking or running groups can boost activity levels. 

Given the diversity of employees’ resolutions, offering a wide range of support is a must. 

Matthew Carlton, founder and principal consultant at Shine Workplace Wellbeing, takes this a step further: “I encourage [employers] to let each employee decide how they want to spend [an individual budget]. Gym memberships might work for some, but others might prefer to improve their fitness by spending it on a pair of running shoes, swimming lessons or putting it towards golf club membership.” 

Although workplace initiatives and encouragement are important, Camilla Lewis, health management consultant at Aon, recommends taking a relatively gentle approach.  

“Don’t expect employees to transform their health overnight,” she explains. “Health improvement is about changing behaviour, so [employers should] provide support and goals that are easy to achieve and won’t put them off altogether.”  

Healthy culture

Beyond providing gym memberships and fitness classes, employers should ensure that the wider working experience facilitates a healthy lifestyle 

Allowing employees to take longer lunch breaks, or come in early, so they can attend a fitness class at lunchtime, for example, will make it easier to stick to a resolution, while also reminding the employee that their health and wellbeing is important to their organisation.  

When it comes to creating a wider culture, the importance of management buy-in cannot be underestimated, says Dr Arup Paul, deputy chief medical officer at Axa PPP healthcare: “Senior management need to get involved, as this will create more camaraderie and loyalty. If a director says it’s rubbish, there’s no way employees will take it seriously.” 

Measuring wider benefits

While the primary objective of these initiatives should be to improve employee health, there are significant benefits for the organisation.  

Alex Heaton, founder and chief executive officer at digital wellness platform LiveSmart, says: “Healthier employees are more engaged and have lower sickness absence. Creating a workplace in which people can thrive also fosters employee loyalty, driving down staff turnover and the costs associated with it.”  

It can be difficult to clearly measure the benefits of improved employee health. However, regular health risk assessments will highlight improvements, and employers can also track data for sickness absence, employee engagement and staff turnover.   

To reap the maximum benefits from employee health improvements, this support needs to last beyond employees’ January resolutions.  

“Any support an employer provides shouldn’t be tokenistic,” says Paul. “Make it fun and engaging, and part of a broader health and wellbeing programme, and it will get groundswell. The return on investment can be significant.”