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16 Oct 2023
by Paula Coffey

4 ways employers can support male health and wellbeing

Older men are notoriously bad at looking after their health. Here’s what employers can do

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The statistics for men’s health in the UK are bleak. One in five men die before the age of 65. Meanwhile, 76% of premature deaths from heart disease are male, while men are 43% more likely to die from cancer and 26% more likely to have type 2 diabetes than women.

To top it all, in September 2021, the Office for National Statistics reported the first decline in male life expectancy since the 1980s.

With long-term sickness in the UK at a record high, the impact of poor men’s health on the economy is huge. This is partly because, although there’s almost a 50/50 split between men and women in terms of people in employment, men make up more than 60% of full-time workers, meaning the economy loses more working hours and productivity through poor male health than female sickness.

For both men and women, the concept of ‘health’ is broad, encompassing physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. But, for men, this can often take a back seat due to societal expectations and norms.

Here are four ways employers can support male employees and help them tackle their health issues in a timelier way.

1. Mental health initiatives

With suicide the biggest killer of men aged 50-54, creating a working environment that supports men’s mental health should be a priority.

When employees have clear signposting to support, it can help prevent poor mental health from getting worse and allow for faster recovery. Employers can offer resources such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs), counselling services or mental health workshops.

Simply making support services more readily available can make a huge difference in terms of people benefiting from them. Yet, the most important thing is continual, active promotion of any services employers offer so they remain front of employees’ minds and can be accessed in times of great need.

2. Health and wellness programmes

Men are more likely to smoke, eat an unhealthy diet and drink alcohol to dangerous levels. Diet and exercise are the cornerstone to good health, so employers that can tackle these challenges head-on tend to see a return in terms of productivity, morale and reduced absenteeism.

Employers can help motivate men to adopt healthier lifestyle choices through offering access to fitness facilities, providing healthy snacks and meals and encourage active breaks away from desks.

3. Open communication

Men are almost a third less likely than women to visit the doctor. This may be down to cultural pressures for men to behave in a certain way and embedded beliefs that speaking about health is a sign of weakness.

Employers can help by creating an open culture that promotes conversations about health and wellbeing without judgement. Encouraging senior leaders to speak out about their own challenges using relatable language can help normalise these conversations and foster a sense of connection.

4. Work/life balance

Offering staff flexibility over their working hours and achieving a healthy work/life balance is crucial for men’s overall health and wellbeing. The modern workplace’s ‘always-on’ culture can lead to burnout if work and home boundaries blur, leading to employees feeling that they can never switch off and decompress.

Flexible working can also encourage male employees to attend medical appointments that can pick up any early signs of illness. Facilitating easy access to healthcare services and highlighting the importance of preventative care can contribute significantly to overall health and wellbeing.

It’s time to get proactive about men’s health in your workplace. Taking action to support men’s health will let your male employees know they are valued and supported throughout their working lives, helping to reduce sickness absence, increase productivity and attract and retain top talent for your business, ultimately leading to a happier and healthier workforce.

In partnership with Unum Ltd

Putting people at the heart of employee benefits

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