John Whitaker, Benefits Consultant at Sky was recently quoted as saying: “The key themes and issues facing employers this year are around healthcare. We all know there is a big looming crisis coming up around healthcare provision and the future of the NHS, and as employers, it is really important to do as much as we can.” He goes on to say that employers should focus on offering their staff an integrated benefits package that extends way beyond traditional perks such as dental insurance, PMI and health screenings, to perks that really make a difference to employees’ lives. So what is your organisation doing about the health and wellbeing of its staff? In this post I take a look at the key trends and how forward-thinking organisations are reacting.
- Preventative health and wellbeing support is a growing feature of employers’ workplace health support.
- Wellbeing-themed benefits that extend to supporting employees’ psychological and financial health are also popular.
- Data generated from wearable technology that tracks employee health can help organisations to shape their health strategies
- 40% of employees are not offered health benefits, Bupa 2014
- 40% of employers see sickness absence rates improve, Group risk employer research, Group Risk Development, 2015
- 60% of employees suffer from financial stress, Employee retirement survey, State Street Global Advisors, 2015
- 37% of employees cite stress as reason to quit job, MetLife Employee Benefits, 2015
- 90% believe flexible working boosts employee morale, Regus, 2014
Recently, Healthcare watchdog the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), published guidelines urging employers to do more to address the effect that poor working environments can have on employees’ lives. According to the guidance, promoting a healthy working environment improves employees’ health and productivity and it is good management practice to promote a culture to improve health and wellbeing.
But are organisations really listening? The report suggests that line managers should be given training to improve their awareness of health and wellbeing issues. Empathy, or lack of, can have huge consequences on how people are treated by their line managers, as well as by their colleagues. Most will certainly need it. Of course when it comes to hard measures, such as reducing absenteeism, then the finance department will always sit up and take notice. But often health and wellbeing isn’t about hard measures, it’s about the subtleties of programmes and workshops that can have profound effects on people. Do organisations only take notice and put their hands in their pockets when results can be fully measured and tracked back to commercial results?
Apparently, according to research just conducted by communications consultancy Lansons, over a third (34%) of the 2000 people surveyed, are too tired to enjoy life outside of work as a result of their job. It’s a hugely discomforting statistic, but one that isn’t that hard to believe, taken from its ‘Britain at Work’ report. What really shocked us however, is the responses they received on employee attitude towards their organisation. What happened to the happy workplace; the idealised work environments led by businesses such as Google and Dropbox (and even more so, some of the great startup ventures of the past decade)? Here’s what people said:
- Less than half (48%) of respondents are proud of where they work.
- 34% say they do not feel a great sense of loyalty to the organisation they work for.
- Just one in ten (10%) of respondents are very likely to recommend their employer to others.
- 39% say they would leave their organisation tomorrow if they had another job to go to.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of Nice (National Institute for Health & Care Excellence), has been quoted as saying: “Every workplace is different and the relationship between management and employee wellbeing is a complex one, dependent on numerous factors including occupation, sector and so on. However, there are some basic principles that should be applied by all employers, directors and line managers, [which] include ensuring the right policies and managements practices are in place. Recommendations include encouraging new ideas and exploring new ways of doing things and opportunities to learn, recognising the contribution of each employee and, if possible, a flexible approach to work scheduling, giving employees more control and flexibility over their own time.”
Dame Carol Black, the Department of Health’s expert adviser on improving the welfare of working people, added: “When its influence eventually comes to be measured, in terms of the quality of service and product, workplace efficiency and productivity, and staff morale, this new guidance from Nice might well prove to be the most significant ever.
“There is abundant evidence that the health, especially the mental health, and overall wellbeing of employees depends greatly on their relationships at work. That means their relationships with each other but particularly their relationships with employers, from line manager to the most senior executive and board member”.
I do agree with Dame Carol. However, something is missing from this statement.
What about people’s relationships with themselves? It’s the most important relationship anyone can have in life. If you start at the foundations then the only way is (from the ground) up. Only then you can begin looking at people’s relationships with each other. Not one report, survey or guideline talks about this. Someone who covers this brilliantly is Joel Gazdar, Founder of the Wild Food Café in Covent Garden, London. He was talking this weekend at the Wilderness Festival on Transformational Nutrition and other positive ways to live. One of the most poignant pieces of information I was privileged to receive from Joel was around questioning ourselves. Take a quiet moment to pay close attention to what’s going on in your head. How much of that incessant chatter is made up of negative forms of questions to yourself? Quite a bit, I would imagine. Just something as simple as changing those internal questions from negative into positive will have a hugely transformative effect on your wellbeing. Try it. The problem is in the context of wellbeing in the workplace however is that it’s not really measurable. And herein lies the problem.
It’s only the open, experimental, brave, forward-thinking organisations with a very strong and loyal team of advocates who are currently spending money, time and resources to create wellbeing programmes that cannot be obviously measured and tracked back to the bottom line. Yet if we’re really going to help, support, teach and ultimately change the people for the better within organisations, then brave steps must be taken and is what’s required if we’re to move forward and embrace the Age of Connectivity. You could call it the ‘Challenger Spirit’ and this is something a fantastic company called Relume work towards.
And as Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, recently said: “Health-promoting workplaces are obviously good for millions of employees and ultimately for taxpayers too, so the time is right for all employers, including the NHS, to raise our game.”