By: Mike Everitt
The benefits of having a healthy workforce have never been in question. Half a million British workers are off sick every day costing the economy around £100 Billion a year (according to Dept for Work and Pensions). So how can organizations improve the health of their workforce and reduce those sick days? There are also significant softer benefits of having healthy people work for you. The world health organization lists improved morale and a sense of well-being as benefits which, I believe, ultimately can be linked with employee engagement and we all want an engaged workforce, don’t we?
So how do we encourage healthiness? Lots of organizations offer health checks and scans as part of their benefits programmes, many of which end up scaring the living daylights out of their employees. A friend of mine (honestly, it wasn’t me) had heart function scans, through a work benefits scheme. This showed up some calcification in the arteries and ended up with them being put onto Statins (cholesterol reducing drugs), probably for the rest of their life. Was it really necessary or was it an over eager health service wanting to dish out preventative drugs? However, that’s a digression from the point. Schemes like these will almost certainly prompt employees to live more healthily which will most likely lead to reduced sickness absence.
Besides the health scare technique, other organizations provide free fruit / remove the junk food from their kitchens, provide education, or implement a lunchtime walking / jogging club. Having an on-site gym or discounts for local gyms is also relatively common. Plus lots of organizations are getting into organising charity fund raising sporting events like “Ride across Britain” (a.k.a Lands End to John O’Groats) and this has the added benefit of some great publicity. Not all organizations will have the facilities or resources to implement some of those, but there are lots of low cost options available (101 Low-cost options to improve workplace wellness https://goo.gl/rR11lz).
To track, manage and monitor participation you can also get HR software with built in Wellness modules that can hook up to wearable devices to count steps and calories burnt, allowing co-workers to compete with one another, which could be linked to rewards and incentives.
Some people are going to engage in your health and wellness programmes by being scared, some by removing temptation and being educated, some by competing with their peers, and some by financial incentives. They are all valid approaches, but if you can start capturing more of this data in your HR system and marry this with your already known sickness levels then you can start to understand the effectiveness of these programmes. Once you understand what works and what doesn’t work for different parts of the business and different populations of the workforce you can fine tune your offerings, create a happy healthy workplace, reduce sickness, and everyone’s a winner.