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07 Feb 2024
by Paula Coffey

Tips on creating a preventative workplace wellbeing strategy

Offering services that promote a healthier lifestyle and address issues before they become critical can lower rates of absenteeism

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With long-term sickness at an all-time high and a steep rise in the number of days lost to sickness absence, employee wellbeing remains a priority for employers.

The significance of preventative services lies in their proactive nature. Instead of waiting for health problems to arise, employers that take a pre-emptive approach by offering services that promote a healthier lifestyle and address issues before they become critical, requiring time off work, tend to see lower rates of absenteeism.

More employers are increasing their focus on preventative services. Here are some tips on how to create a forward thinking, proactive strategy that embeds wellbeing as a core value across the business.

1. Digital online services

Adopting an ethos of preventative care gives employers a unique opportunity to encourage employees to make healthier lifestyles choices.

It has the potential to minimise absenteeism, lower presenteeism and reduce costs associated with requiring health treatment for both employers and employees.

Offering employees fast, online access to clinicians such as GPs, physiotherapists, mental health professionals and even fitness and nutrition consultants can help tackle some of the major causes of sickness absence — before the illness or injury becomes so bad they need to take time off. Digital services can provide access to advice and treatment sooner, meaning the employee gets the benefit of early intervention and improved health outcomes, all while also alleviating the burden on the NHS.

2. Understanding what works for your business

When building a preventative approach, it’s important to understand which specific health and wellbeing challenges are most prevalent in your workforce. These could include high levels of stress, poor sleep, financial concerns, lack of exercise or any concerns affecting your employees’ ability to turn up to work and thrive.

If you don’t have access to such data or insights about your workforce, a simple survey can be enough to begin to understand your employees’ needs. You’ll soon be able to introduce initiatives that address specific problem areas by encouraging healthy behaviours and lifestyles.

Tracking use allows you to monitor shifting employee needs over an extended period and adjust your health and wellbeing offering if you notice any trends or patterns.

3. Help improve mental health

At work, conditions and culture can have a huge impact on mental health. In turn, this can affect an individual’s ability to perform well in their job.

Putting measures in place to help reduce anxiety and stress for employees is a good way to ensure your workforce is as productive and healthy as it can be. To encourage employees to access services earlier, employers could consider offering unlimited mental health support, meaning employees have the right number of sessions to manage an issue effectively, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.

4. Demonstrate value and care

A preventative approach helps create a culture of wellness. It sends a clear message to employees that health and wellness are important values as an employer, encouraging employees to adopt healthier behaviours and lifestyles. Done well, this preventative approach can improve employee health and happiness, in turn leading a more productive and engaged workforce.

Keep conversations going so employees understand why looking after their health is important. It’s important to signpost to the services available so they can find the right support at the right time. As an employer, it’s great to offer employees a suite to services, but if employees don’t know about them or how to access them, they are not getting any benefit.

Future trends

The next generation of digital wellbeing solutions should give employees the tools to understand and manage their own health and take charge of their wellbeing. Having these easy-to-use services accessible in one place will help ensure a more holistic and coordinated approach to care, cross-referring to other services and specialists.

Digital innovations can work together with external partners such as the NHS to the benefit of both parties. There will be more opportunity through technological innovations for providers to work alongside NHS provisions and be more joined up, making the employee experience even more seamless and effective.

Employer-based preventative services make good business sense. When done right and encompassing the overarching health and happiness of the workforce, it can contribute to higher productivity, offering employers a real return on investment in people.

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