Bupa: The benefits of engaging employees in health and wellbeing

This article is supplied by Bupa. 

Key points

  • There is a compelling business case for engaging employees in their health and wellbeing.
  • Engaging staff in their health and wellbeing is more likely to achieve results and create long-term change. 
  • Creating a positive and proactive health culture can reduce future health risks and ensure employers benefit from a workforce that is happy, motivated and performs at its best.
Patrick Watt

It is encouraging to see an increasing number of employers taking the health of their employees seriously.

But employee health and wellbeing today means more than providing health insurance and traditional health benefits. Employers need to understand the benefits of engaging their staff and taking steps to improve their general health and wellbeing.

With more than 31 million people employed in the UK, the workplace presents a great opportunity to engage staff, support them to improve their health and wellbeing and reduce future health risks. There is a compelling business case for doing so, and this is something employees now expect from their employer.

Research we commissioned with OnePoll, for which 1,000 UK employees were polled between December 2014 and January 2015, shows that 85% of UK staff believe their employer has a responsibility to look after their health and wellbeing. This is not surprising, given that almost two-thirds (63%) of employees say their work life has a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

Organisations that do not take action to support the health of their workforce are missing out, because employees who are engaged in their own health take fewer sick days, generate lower healthcare costs and perform better at work.

Engaging workplaces drive health focus

While health insurance and traditional health benefits are typically designed to attract and retain talent, more focus must be put on creating an environment in which employees are engaged and supported to lead healthier lifestyles, and keep well both physically and mentally. Not only will this benefit staff by helping them to reduce future health risks, but smart employers know that healthy employees come to work, perform at their best and will go the extra mile.

In fact, our research shows that almost two-thirds (60%) of UK employees admit that if they felt happy at work, they would be more productive, and more than half (55%) would feel more focused.

Digital technology can boost engagement  

Our research shows that three in five (58%) employees would be encouraged to think more about their health and wellbeing if their employer provided them with digital technology to help them do so, and more than half (57%) say they would feel more motivated if they could team up with colleagues.

Employers must lead by example and create a culture in which employees are encouraged and supported to improve their health and wellbeing. But we know that engaging an entire workforce can be a challenge, particularly for organisations where employees are travelling and rarely in the office.

The best way is to engage staff is in a way that is familiar and accessible to them, such as through a workplace health platform with remote access. Platforms such as Bupa Boost are designed as a mobile platform that enables employees to integrate wellbeing data from their apps and wearable technology, set personal goals, monitor their progress, compete with colleagues and friends and take part in team challenges.

Gamification will drive long-term change 

It is this element of engagement and gamification that we believe can fundamentally drive long-term behavioural change and achieve results for both staff and their employers, more so than a reward-based scheme that provides short-term benefits that become less enticing over time. 

Employers can also benefit from using anonymised data, which can help them better understand the health and wellbeing priorities of their workforce, enabling them to set challenges that address employee needs and create workplace initiatives on the health issues that matter most to their staff.

This will help them create a more positive and proactive health culture across their organisation, improving employee engagement and motivating their entire workforce behind health and wellbeing initiatives in a fun, engaging and accessible way.

This is why organisations should take meaningful action now. The business case for engaging employees in their health and wellbeing is compelling, so more employers need to create an environment where staff are supported to adopt healthier lifestyles, keep well and reduce their chances of becoming unwell.

Not only will employers reap the business benefits, but they will attract and retain a workforce which is happy, well and motivated for the long term.

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Patrick Watt is corporate director at Bupa UK