Thomas Hiles: Which wellbeing initiative has the biggest impact on the workforce?

Two things that immediately spring to mind are health screening and the simple ‘initiative’ of communicating and promoting wellbeing in the workplace, something organisations have generally been quite lax on in the past.

Health screening can be costly and is not always widespread in UK workplaces, sometimes restricted to senior employees. But where it can be extended it is, for me, the most valuable component of a wellbeing programme. This can also explain the cost, although in the flexible benefits world, it can easily be made accessible on a voluntary level.

No other health initiative can offer such an in-depth review of an employee’s overall health and therefore offer the opportunity to fix things before they become broken. This move to a preventative, rather than treatment-based, approach is the key, and it can be supported by a number of wellbeing initiatives, which together drive forward the overall campaign.

Communicating the initiative is of the utmost importance. Simply doing this in the right way boosted our take-up from 18% to 80% of staff within 18 months, although the benefit had already been there for a number of years.

Secondary effects, both of the screening programme and of a quality communications plan, can be seen in rising employee assistance programme usage, reduced absence (hard to show in aggregate, but there can be a number of undisputed cases where serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses can be caught early on and treated, sometimes with little absence), changes in private medical insurance usage (we saw a marked rise in incidence vis-à-vis a reduction in average per-capita claims costs), better awareness and increased linkage with other wellbeing initiatives and health benefits.

It can be difficult to identify real, measurable ways of promoting better wellbeing, but this two-pronged approach can make the difference.

Thomas Hiles is benefits manager at BNP Paribas