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24 Jan 2023
by Jill Pritchard

What employers can do to support workers facing a hard winter

As the UK faces the continuing fallout from the pandemic, low productivity levels and a cost of living crisis, employers will play a crucial role in supporting the health and wellbeing of staff over the coming months

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As the country heads into recession amid a worsening cost-of-living crisis, strong economic headwinds and a shrinking workforce, employees are likely to find themselves facing difficult times this winter.

Vitality’s 2022 data for Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, the UK’s largest employee wellbeing survey, paints a detailed picture of the heath and wellbeing challenges facing the UK’s workforce.

The effect on productivity

Deteriorating health and wellbeing is not only effecting employees, but having economic consequences as well. According to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace findings productivity losses are up 39% since the last survey in 2019 – an economic cost to the UK of around £30bn.

One in five of respondents to the survey indicated they were suffering from burnout, typically losing 93 productive days as a result. Meanwhile, 10% of respondents reported symptoms of depression, impacting their productivity even more at 110 productive days lost on average per year, double that of those not at risk.

Businesses can drive change

While the outlook may appear gloomy, businesses can be at the forefront of driving change. Employee health and wellbeing is an issue that needs to be addressed at both management and board level and requires serious attention, more so than ever.

Given the focus from businesses on meeting organisational environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, employee health can also form a key component of a business’s ‘social’ ESG strategies.

Those who do provide sufficient health and wellbeing support will be able to demonstrate that they’re looking after their employees at a time when it’s needed the most. This is good for staff, provides benefits to the business and helps society by making people healthier, more productive and easing the national health burden.

With what’s on the horizon for employees – from poor mental health exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis to ongoing pressures on the NHS – supporting staff wellbeing and providing fast, seamless access to healthcare will be more warmly welcomed by staff than ever, offering significant retention benefits to employers at a time when recruiting talent is still proving a challenge.

End-to-end care

Alongside many of the benefits that group private medical insurance (PMI) cover can provide, primary care such as access to mental health support can be particularly valuable. Vitality’s findings highlight that where businesses offer flexible primary care solutions, employees report lower than average productivity days lost per year.

But a key element of improving employee health and wellbeing must be prevention. Half of all illnesses in the UK are preventable and a staggering 90% of these are a result of lifestyle choices.

Wellbeing support requires engagement to be effective, and with this comes behavioural change for the better by employees. This can be achieved by providing incentives and rewarding people for making positive lifestyle changes and health improvements. Furthermore, at a time of tightening budgets, rewards and discounts through partner services can also help people save money and deliver immediate value.

Accessible and engaging solutions

The good news for employers is that comprehensive, highly effective and engaging health and wellbeing support can be delivered as a complete package and doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

By providing employees with a complete, digital-led end-to-end service of preventative personalised wellbeing support, alongside primary and secondary healthcare, businesses can help drive better health and wellbeing for their employees.

A simple and accessible solution can be the key that unlocks more than just retention benefits, through an evidence-based health promotion programme that incentivises and rewards better lifestyle choices in a way that helps keeps employees healthy and improves productivity. 

As the UK enters a challenging few months this winter, there has never been a more important time to place health and wellbeing on the business agenda. As Vitality’s research has highlighted, this makes good sense for the employer, is valuable for the employee and increasingly has a broader economic imperative behind it, too.

In partnership with Vitality

At Vitality, we take a unique approach to insurance. As well as providing high-quality comprehensive cover, we provide a complete wellness package that can help boost employee engagement and productivity.

Contact us today