Helen Smith: How looking after employees’ health and wellbeing can boost engagement

helen smith

Engaged employees are good for business. By creating a culture where employees feel valued and happy to be at work, an organisation can often see improvements in productivity, innovation, financial performance, and reductions in absence and staff turnover.

As engagement becomes more and more important for employers, the link between employee health and wellbeing and engagement strategies has also become more apparent. In fact, health benefits, such as health cash plans and health insurance were the second and third most popular benefits respectively, behind contributory pension schemes, according to the 2017 Willis Towers Watson Employee benefits and wellbeing index, published in March 2017.

So why do employee health and wellbeing strategies have such an impact on employee engagement? In its simplest form it is because it’s one of the clearest ways for an employer to show it really cares about its staff. The BMG Research Employee Panel, surveyed in March 2017, saw an increase in engagement levels of 31% among employees whose employers showed they care.

Here are a few ways a health and wellbeing strategy could help to improve employee engagement before, during and after health issues occur to employees.

Support before it happens
Health and wellbeing benefits can raise engagement among employees who do not need medical treatment by enabling them to take steps to lead a healthier life.

A good example of this is a health assessment. Many serious conditions do not have symptoms, so by enabling employees to have a health assessment they could identify major problems such as heart disease and diabetes early. Catching them at this stage can make them much easier to treat, while some conditions are preventable if identified early.

Health information, such as nutrition and exercise advice, is another valuable component of a health and wellbeing strategy. This can help employees make lifestyle choices that enable them to lead healthier and happier lives.

Support when it happens
When an employee is suffering with a health condition, helping them to access treatment quickly through a healthcare policy can significantly speed up their recovery, getting them back to work and enjoying life quicker. Unsurprisingly, this is something employees really appreciate, which can translate into increased employee engagement.

Support after it happens
Health cash plans enable employees to claim money back for everyday healthcare costs such as an appointment with the dentist, an eye test and new glasses, prescriptions and a course of physiotherapy, potentially saving them hundreds of pounds every single year. As this helps to make an employee’s salary stretch further, it is often highly appreciated, therefore, leading to higher levels of engagement.

These plans can also help keep employees well. Regular dental check-ups can spot the warning signs of serious problems such as detecting abscesses, while an eye examination can detect medical issues including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Maximising the benefits
Whether employees’ claim cashback on a regular health appointment or a health assessment picks up a problem early, knowing their employer cares can make employees feel valued, which, in turn, can contribute to higher levels of engagement. But to maximise the benefits it is essential to encourage all employees to engage with a strategy as much as possible.

The way employers communicate their health and wellbeing benefits will play a huge part in determining how employees use and value the service, so they must ensure communications are regular and relevant to employees’ needs. This shows the employer understands and values them.

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Some healthcare providers will work with employers to provide ongoing support with communications.  This can include marketing literature but also advice around health initiatives that will help create a positive culture of employee wellbeing.

Helen Smith is head of wellbeing strategy at Benenden