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 How involved should employers be involved in employees’ lifestyle choices?

Mike Blake
glassdoor

Fifty-two percent of UK workers say they are uncomfortable with their employer getting involved in their personal lifestyle choices, research has revealed. Contributor Mike Blake, Wellbeing Lead – Willis Towers Watson.  

The study of 2,000 UK workers by Willis Towers Watson found that more than half (56 percent) of UK workers view lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption, as a strictly personal matter.

Seventy-one percent of respondents who said they felt uncomfortable wanted to keep a boundary between their personal and work lives, 37 percent said they didn’t understand why their employer should be involved in their lifestyle choices, and 34 percent said they feared it would create a ‘Big Brother’ culture.  

Despite this, almost one in three (30 percent) workers see their employers as having a moral responsibility to help them lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.  

“Health and wellbeing is a sensitive area and companies must tread carefully if they are to adequately support their workers, whilst also ensuring their privacy is respected,” said Mike Blake, wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson.  

“Although a healthy workforce benefits business, driving down presenteeism and absenteeism, and boosting productivity and retention, employees don’t always appreciate their employer intervening on matters of personal wellbeing.  

“However, there is a growing expectation for employers to step up and help – but getting the approach right is key.

“Effective but indirect communication can help companies offer specialist advice to workers, without them feeling their boundaries have been breached.”

Currently, less than half of employees (46 percent) say the company they work for helps them lead fit and healthy lifestyles.  

One in five workers (20 percent) said they would most like support, such as benefits, voluntary wellbeing schemes, or advice, pertaining to fitness, and one in five (19 percent) would like help with relaxation.    

Blake added: “As a nation, we are becoming more health-conscious and employers can play a key role in helping workers attain and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  

“Tapping into current trends can help employers engage with employees on a level they are comfortable and familiar with.  

“Offering access to health technologies, such as wearables and self-help apps, can help improve wellbeing and strengthen the resilience of a workforce, without direct intervention of an employer.  

“Companies should essentially equip their workers with the tools to live a fit and healthy lifestyle but let workers decide the level of involvement from their company in pursuit of this.”  

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