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Health and wellbeing took several leaps up the corporate agenda last year and are likely to be a major focus for business and HR in 2020. To fully comprehend the issues, we surveyed over 500 HR decision makers, in companies of all sizes across the UK, asking which health conditions concern them regarding their company’s employees.

Hidden or symptomless conditions, like high blood pressure, were revealed to be one of the main concerns, cited by 37% of respondents and second only to concerns about mental health, cited by 49%. Employees suffering serious illnesses, such as cancer, were a worry to a third (33%) of HR decision makers and, perhaps a little surprisingly, the fourth biggest health concern was regarding more minor, temporary issues like headaches, migraines and dry eyes, stated by 30%.   

The full figures are as follows:

Which health conditions concern you regarding your company’s employees?

>Mental health 49%
>Hidden/symptomless like high blood pressure 37%
>Serious illness, such as cancer 33%
>Temporary issues like headaches, migraine, dry eyes 30%
>Eye health conditions 29%
>Lifestyle related like diabetes 28%
>Cardiovascular 27%

Hidden illnesses
Often the big worry with symptomless illnesses is that they may only become evident when the condition becomes serious. The medical steps to help detect ‘hidden’ illnesses can be invasive so they are not always performed speculatively. While comprehensive health screening may detect these types of conditions, this can be an expensive benefit not often offered to all levels of employee.

It may, however, be worth HR managers considering the benefits of eye care. Remarkably, a simple eye test can aid with the detection of signs of otherwise hidden illnesses. The changes in the blood vessels, caused by conditions including high blood pressure, can be seen in the capillaries at the back of the eye, where they reflect changes happening in the more major blood vessels around the rest of the body. An optician is often able to see the signs of a serious condition, before the patient notices any symptoms. .

Early diagnosis and treatment of conditions like high blood pressure can often relieve the issue before it has chance to become a more serious problem and this preventative measure can be a great support to the holistic health and wellbeing of employees.   

Greater concerns
Indeed, eye care can have an impact on the majority of health and wellbeing concerns cited by HR managers in the survey. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are just two more serious conditions where the signs can be picked up through an eye test. There are many cases of such signs being detected by opticians, early through eye care, and therefore enabling treatment to also start early. Opticians can also play a role in the monitoring of such issues.

While eye conditions can be diagnosed through a trip to the optician, so too can temporary but debilitating problems like migraines. While these may not be life-threatening, they can certainly be draining and affect productivity.

Wellbeing benefits
The survey went on to ask HR professionals why employees take up eye care as a workplace benefit. The results were:

>To check eye health 65%
>To check vision 52%
>To meet with Health & Safety regulations 50%
To check for wider health conditions 43%

It is positive that employees are thought to use eye care to check their eye health as well as their vision, and it is pleasing that eye care is not just considered to be a way of meeting health and safety regulations. It is also positive that 43% believe employees take up eye care to help check for wider health conditions, but, with a little more communication to employees, this aspect of the benefit could be even more greatly appreciated.

An all-rounder
An optician can play an important role in supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace. Investigating the role of eye care benefits can allow employees to have additional support for many aspects of their health and wellbeing, and this can be highly valued by staff of all levels.

*Survey undertaken on behalf of Specsavers Corporate Eyecare by Opinium among 500 HR decision makers across the UK between 12 and 18 September 2019.

Jim Lythgow – Director of Strategic Alliances, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare

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