Ensuring you have the right healthcare strategy to bolster productivity

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that there’s a link between the health of employees and the productivity of their business, but how do employers know that they are putting the right healthcare strategy in place? 

The first important step is to evidence that the same modifiable risks that impact on health also influence productivity. In this way, by investing in the health of your employees, you are effectively addressing the risks that are impacting on your bottom line – a powerful connection to make.

Research from the latest Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) survey (developed by Vitality) found that, for the average company, the cost of lost productivity is approximately 9.6% of its wage bill, with the average employee losing over 27.5 days of productive time, each year due to ill health, according to the survey. Whilst many organisations are aware that lost productivity has a significant financial cost, many are unaware of the steps they can take to reduce it.

Changing a company's health culture

In our experience globally, we have found that programmes that have most impact on employee health are not simply bolt-ons to a business, they are fully integrated into workplace culture. That means they are initiated both top-down – from a board and executive level – and bottom-up, by engaging employees in their own wellness. Our research shows that by reporting on workplace wellness programmes to the board alone increases participation by 112%.

The first thing to understand is the lifestyle and clinical risks to which your employees are exposed, and segment them on the basis of their risk factors and current wellness engagement. We use a proprietary Vitality Age tool, and bespoke productivity model (which looks at 12 modifiable drivers of productivity loss) to do this, and pay attention to risks such as smoking, lack of exercise, musculoskeletal issues, and stress.

For example, a large company may have employees who are already engaged with wellness, as well as those who are chronically ill, plus a group in the middle that are not leading healthy lives and may be at risk – each has different motivators, needs and requires a bespoke solution to deliver optimal outcomes.

Initiate interventions

The second step is to initiate a suite of interventions tailored to the workforce. This may mean different incentives for each group to motivate them and sustain change (the bottom-up approach) and communicating and delivering them via effective management training that shows an authentic desire to improve employee well-being (the top-down approach). 

Whatever the individual health profiles of a workforce, certain benefits are proven to drive employees’ engagement with their wellness. These include low-cost interventions, such as providing fresh fruit in the workplace, bicycle storage facilities, allowing staff to participate in wellness during their workday (by going to the gym at lunchtime, for example), and extending benefits to employees’ families.

The productivity pay-off

Once employees are engaged in these interventions, the third and final step is to measure the improvement in risk factors. That might mean monitoring the number of employees who have successfully given up smoking, who attend the gym regularly, or who lose weight. By tracking absenteeism and presenteeism at the same time, businesses can clearly see the benefits of their interventions, not just on their employees’ health but on the health of their business as well.

Using BHW data, for example, we see that the healthiest employees, as measured using our Vitality Age tool, have the equivalent of 33 days additional productive time each year.

Importantly, we also see the link between people’s lifestyles and their productivity; those employees who lose weight, or increased the amount of exercise they did for example, reduced their presenteeism over the course of one year. The message is clear; as employees improve their health and lifestyles, their productivity improves. This means a win win for both employees and the organisation.

This article was supplied by Vitality.

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