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It’s time we got health and wellbeing right

Patrick Samy, CEO - Span

Some businesses have re-opened, while many more are preparing to get up and running again. The question is, can they operate in a way which is safe and sustainable for both employees and the business? Well-being and healthcare are making the headlines, and there is mounting pressure on businesses to take greater responsibility in caring for their teams. Why should employers fuel HR budgets in times of crisis? Patrick Samy, CEO of digital health management app, Span, shares his insight on why looking after your employees’ health will literally pay you dividends.

  1. Healthy teams = healthy savings.

Combined costs from worklessness and sickness absence amount to approximately £100 billion annually. 

As businesses are preparing to get up and running again, employees with weakened immune systems due to lifestyle conditions will be more at risk – leading to a reduction in productivity. For the business, this can result in direct costs related to absenteeism and presenteeism. Stress, anxiety and depression alone represented 14.3 million working days ‘lost’ in 2019.   

Providing employees with outstanding wellbeing benefits can improve productivity and lower absenteeism. Most employees are reluctant to talk about their health with their line manager. To help give employees the privacy, sensitivity and trust they need in order to open up about their health problems, there are a number of tech-powered solutions available for businesses – digital platforms that provide flexibility and privacy. 

  1. Happy employees, happy customers.

Your employees are your best advertising. Wellbeing support helps the overall ‘team mood’, but more than this, it has an important impact on generating positive WoM conversations from employees, and can also channel through into their interactions with your customers. 

The latter case is most relevant when we talk about employees who deal with customers directly. A recent survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that almost half of Brits have reported high anxiety since lockdown.

Let’s take Aldi and its recent initiative to support its workers with Mental Health UK as an example. Retailers, hospitality and services should follow the lead and keep their employees happy, healthy and feeling safe. Why? Because these employees are under a lot of pressure as the UK is coming back to life and they are also in direct contact with the customer. Providing a positive customer experience is crucial for any industry as businesses reopen. 

Now, have you ever listened to your friend complaining about their employer? If they said that they were not being treated fairly, worked long overtimes, were stressed and had no health support from their managers, this likely impacted your view on that particular company. Every HR person should try and build an army of advocates who will spread the word about the company and contribute to the overall brand image. So the story of two friends chatting over a drink could be: “Listen, we have this new amazing health benefit at work, I feel so safe now…”. Your marketing colleagues will thank you later. As will your team of hiring managers and CFOs when your attractiveness to top talent spirals upwards.

  1. Attract and keep talent. 

Recruitment is often a long and costly process which significantly affects internal operations. Every HR person wants to keep that employee turnover number as low as possible. 

The Covid-19 storm will change employee perception of benefits forever. Even before the crisis, gym memberships, healthcare insurance and healthy snacks on-site were some of the most popular benefits. We can expect the demand to go up now, as the crisis has raised health awareness more than anything before – who will need cinema vouchers anymore? 

Employees will stay with companies which show that they care about the health and wellbeing of their staff. The conversation about health is no longer a nice-to-have, but an essential element that will create a healthy, sustainable and productive workforce. 

  1. Strengthen trust and relationships.

Opportunities to learn and grow, incentives, the actual work, as well as relationships in the workplace, all play a role in forming one’s attitude towards their job. A meaningful and caring company-wide approach to wellbeing also feeds into this.

We need to keep in mind that both mental and physical health are ongoing topics and need to be driven long-term, as part of the company culture. Offering a healthy workspace tells employees that they are valued and supported, which has a positive knock on-effect on wellbeing and life satisfaction.

Help your employees manage emotions, deepen empathy and deal with unplanned dilemmas at work. A community of people making lifestyle changes fosters an ‘in it together’ attitude that creates trust and friendships within teams. 

It’s a Marathon 

Health benefits and wellbeing are heavily discussed at the moment and there are plenty of options to choose from – regular check-ups, digital health platforms, meditation rooms, blood tests or office massage. But every HR team should consider benefits appropriate for their employees – every industry is different. A manufacturing company with thousands of people ‘on the front’ will have different needs to a typical ‘office’ culture. But that’s for another article. 

Lastly, employers should keep the conversation going – it’s a never-ending marathon, not a post-Covid-19 sprint. Survey your employees on a regular basis, measure engagement and identify if staff needs are properly addressed to improve the workplace and benefits of your workplace. 

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