If any good can be said to have resulted from COVID-19 it is probably that employee wellbeing – whether mental, physical or financial — has finally been getting the attention it deserves.
Indeed, when speaking recently at the Global Mental Health Summit 2021, Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that almost half of British adults have reported that their wellbeing has been affected by the pandemic.
So, even the smallest firms have become increasingly aware of the potential impact of absenteeism and presenteeism costs on the bottom line.
They are also appreciating that looking after employees better can slash recruitment costs at a time when the job market is exceptionally buoyant. A recent Microsoft study has found that a staggering 41% of workers worldwide are thinking of switching jobs within the next year.
Current wellness activity
Mental wellbeing solutions such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which provide confidential and impartial stress counselling, have been increasingly offered and promoted during the last 18 months. These often cost employers nothing as they are automatically included in many group risk and group health schemes.
Financial wellbeing is also being helped by an increasing tendency for employers to provide financial education workshops and seminars and to issue total reward statements – which can boost engagement by making employees more aware of overall benefits packages. Additionally, EAPs can include debt management support services.
Some progress has been made as well with helping employees with their physical wellbeing, although this has sometimes been limited to offering Cycle to Work schemes or discounted gym memberships – which tend to appeal only to the more dedicated sports enthusiasts.
Some larger companies have gone the extra mile by encouraging the use of online fitness or yoga classes and the membership of local running clubs, and by promoting rewards for healthy lifestyles.
Plenty of smaller employers have also been promoting online programmes that offer employees access to information, fact sheets and videos designed to help with mental and physical wellbeing.
Don’t overlook health assessments
Nevertheless, the relatively simple option of offering health assessments — which effectively provide the human version of an MOT – is still remarkably under-utilised.
Whilst such assessments are not a legal requirement, as they are with cars, there is a clear case for making them available to all employees to ensure they remain healthy and feel valued, and therefore more likely to function at their optimum.
At one extreme, assessments that can be done entirely online are available from wellness providers at no additional charge to their overall service or for a small fee. They are also sometimes included on wellbeing extensions to employee benefits.
These online formats have rocketed in popularity during lockdown but are limited in their scope. Face-to-face health assessments or screenings, which can cost anything between £200 and £1,000 per employee, are considerably more effective and, because the market has been expanding rapidly in recent years, the choice of the lower-cost options here is increasing all the time.
In most cases employees have to turn up at the provider’s premises but, if at least 250 of them need testing, it can be possible for the providers to visit the workplace.
The tests involved, which can be tailored to suit a company’s particular requirements, can include everything from blood pressure, BMI and kidney and liver function to cholesterol and glucose levels, heart rhythms, cancer risks and blood count.
The results are presented to employees in reports highlighting any areas of concern, together with steps they can take to address them. Even if they don’t detect any serious issues, they may flag up aspects like high cholesterol that can be nipped in the bud quite easily before they become more serious.
Alternatively, employers with the more restricted budgets may wish to offer health cash plans, as many of these give employees the ability to claim back some of the costs of a comprehensive health screening – in addition to covering a wide range of other minor health costs.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.