The Future: from thought leaders: Healthy Competition will be crucial

Good healthcare perks are becoming increasingly important, says IPC Media’s Ashley Bestwick

I was rooting through my cupboard the other day in search of something important that I was beginning to worry I may have filed under “B” for bin, when I found an old book I had kept during the clear-out of our health centre cupboards. It was a book about repetitive strain injury (RSI), which heralded the view that women are more at risk because most keyboard workers are female.

It also speculated that rays emitted from visual display units (VDUs) might be one cause of symptoms. These are amusing thoughts, of course, now that the world and our understanding have moved on, but it did get me thinking about how occupational health (OH) has developed over recent years.

There was a time when OH was seen as largely the domain of industrial organisations. However, now employee health is becoming a matter of strategy for all kinds of organisation and is no longer just concerned with tackling staff absence, but also about early intervention and encouraging employees to make lifestyle changes.
The impact of a good healthcare programme on staff engagement, morale and productivity is gaining wider acceptance as evidence of its positive impact on the bottom line grows.

The future for healthcare perks is likely to hold further change. Employers are highly likely to see a growing expectation among staff of being offered a good healthcare programme.

This expectation is probably highest among those of generation Y, for whom the boundaries between work, rest and play are becoming less defined. For this generation, good healthcare benefits may be an integral part of the employment proposition because lifestyle takes a more central role in their choice of employer.

Competitive advantage This means that the healthcare benefits in the future will play a vital role in employers securing competitive advantage. Flexibility and choice are also very important to this group of employees, so we can expect to see more employers adopting a flexible approach to health and wellbeing initiatives.

Organisations may also begin to look beyond basic healthcare provision and absence management, and develop healthcare perks that add value and competitive advantage by increasing factors such as vitality, energy and motivation. After all, energised, engaged and motivated staff will deliver more value to an organisation.

The importance of healthcare perks and the increased investment by employers in this area will drive the development of more creative initiatives, aimed at encouraging, tempting and even, dare I say it, bribing staff to change their lifestyles. Dragging the vitamin-enhanced, antioxidant-enriched water to the horse is only half the battle. Getting the horse to drink it is always going to be difficult.

Tax incentives While the government is keen to involve employers in improving Britain’s health, it would be nice, in the future, to see some tax incentives for employers that take the matter seriously. Instead of issuing threats of levies on health screening and employee assistance programmes, hopefully the government will consider these areas, along with private medical insurance (PMI), with a view to making them cheaper to provide. The use of PMI may well only increase as the reputation of the National Health Service plummets.

Ultimately, good healthcare perks are becoming an integral part of creating a great place to work, and as the war for talent gets more competitive, it will be vital for organisations to invest time, effort and money in their healthcare programmes.

Ashley Bestwick is compensation and benefits manager at IPC Media

Key Points

  • Employees are increasingly likely to expect their employer to offer a good healthcare package.
  • This expectation is likely to be highest among staff belonging to generation Y, for whom the boundaries between work- and home-life are becoming less defined.
  • In the future, health and wellbeing perks will be vital in helping employers to secure competitive advantage, and a flexible approach will be key.