6 ways to keep employees (and productivity) healthy

Large organisations in the UK are taking employee health and wellbeing more seriously than ever, but many outlay huge sums for solutions that provide mediocre results. Here’s how to make your investment go the distance.

Keeping your most important assets at the top of their game is good for everyone. In 2013, 131 million working days were lost to sickness absence costing UK businesses billions in lost productivity. But keeping your employees at work is only half the story, presenteeism – where employees attend work while sick or injured – is on the rise, and it’s hurting your bottom line.

Businesses need to address all of these issues to ensure their employees remain healthy and productive and to attract the best talent. Here’s our advice:

1. Make a commitment to your staff

Wellbeing is strongly tied to feeling valued and appreciated. Employees want to know their employer has their best interests at heart and that if they get sick, they’ll be met with understanding and assistance. Set about developing a workplace culture that celebrates and nurtures wellbeing and encourages employees to take the time off they need. Without it, more costly measures such as offering gym memberships or private medical insurance, may not have the impact you’re looking for.

2. Make it easy for employees to take charge

Let’s face it; you can invest tens of thousands in wellbeing programmes only for employees to pass up the benefits. Make it easy for employees to take charge of their own wellbeing by providing onsite facilities and services that save them time and effort. Do this by:

  • Providing healthy food choices. Diet is a key factor in a well workforce. Start by making sure employees have access to healthy food onsite. Consider collaborating with nutritional experts to develop a balanced offering that they’ll enjoy and will help them manage their own health and weight. Employees who are overweight or obese are more likely to get sick or injured and take time off work.
  • Building an onsite gym. Some of the most common excuses for not attending a gym regularly include a lack of time and intimidation by muscle-bound athletes on the gym floor. Take those excuses away by making a gym available exclusively to your employees right where they work. Believe it or not, an onsite gym can cost less than purchasing gym memberships for your staff at an external site.
  • Bringing the health professionals in house. Many forward-thinking businesses now provide onsite clinics staffed by health professionals a few hours a week. An onsite GP makes afternoons off to visit the doctor a thing of the past while physiotherapists can help employees recover from injury during their lunch break.

3. Go the extra mile

Offer extras like health assessments, education seminars, beauty therapy and nutritional services. They might seem like unnecessary extras but it’s all part of creating a culture of health and wellbeing where employees are empowered to take care of themselves.

4. Give employees access to rapid healthcare and recovery services

In 2013, more working days were lost to musculoskeletal problems like back and neck pain than any other cause, but minor illnesses like coughs and colds were the most common reason for workplace absence. When employees do get sick or injured, help them to get back on their feet as soon as possible by providing a private medical insurance package and partnering with a private provider of clinical services. Choose a partner that offers a holistic end-to-end service to make sure your employees are fit and ready to return to work.

5. Don’t ignore mental health

Wellbeing isn’t just about physical health. In 2014/15, there were 440,000 cases of work related stress, anxiety and depression costing UK businesses 9.9 million days in lost productivity. Collaborate with health partners that take mental health seriously and consider helping employees to access and practice mindfulness so they can build the resilience needed to thrive in a busy and challenging workplace.

6. Don’t undo all the good work by overloading your HR department

These initiatives will benefit your employees, but your HR department might feel a little stretched managing such a complete wellbeing offering on their own. Look after those who look after everyone else by choosing a health and wellbeing partner that can manage every stage of the project and collaborate with your team.

Find out more about Nuffield Health's corporate services.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 
CIPD 2015
Health and Safety Executive 2015
Office for National Statistics 2014 

Last updated Tuesday 3 October 2017

First published on Monday 16 May 2016