Clare Bettelley: Share health management

There are some basic principles for employers to follow when creating and managing a healthcare strategy, but they should first examine how they support staff to manage their own health and wellbeing.

The first step for employers is to identify and assess their employees’ health risks, including cancer, stress or musculoskeletal disorders. What are the risks, who are they impacting and what is the cost to their business?

Employers should then strive to understand the health risks from their employees’ perspective, which is not always the case, particularly with larger employers.

A realistic understanding of the available budget for tackling these risks is also imperative because it will determine the products and services, as well as the level of cover, that an employer can offer to its workforce and optimise the chances of its strategy being successful.

An employer is then in a position to consider the healthcare providers with which it wants to work, based on its employees’ needs. How many times have you been told what your provider can do for you, rather than how they can address your needs?

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, employers should expect nothing less than a provider that falls over itself to listen to their needs, so the expectations of all involved parties are managed from the outset of devising a workplace health strategy.

What is the point of an employer setting itself, and by association its employees, up to fail, particularly when it is dealing with issues as sensitive and debilitating as mental health issues and musculoskeletal disorders?

Pressing issues

But there are more pressing issues to factor into a health strategy, not least the extent to which employees are increasingly delegating responsibility for their health and wellbeing to the National Health Service (NHS) and their employers.

From the promotion of healthy food in workplace restaurants to increasing access to gyms and wellbeing sessions such as massage and meditation, many employers are making every effort to support staff health, but a new approach is needed.

This is already happening in the US, where a number of employers are running motivational-based programmes to boost employees’ health and wellbeing. Rather than a programme designed to incentivise staff just to boost the bottom line of their business, an employer’s aim may be to reduce employees’ blood pressure or weight, which has the same outcome, but benefits employees’ health in the process.

Employee communication strategies should therefore be more innovative and highlight health management as a partnership between employers and their workforces, not just an additional cost for businesses and the NHS to shoulder.

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Clare Bettelley, Associate editor