Why is health and wellness in the workplace important?
Creating a healthy work environment has many benefits, not least for your business's bottom line. The Office for National Statistics found that an estimated 149.3 million working days were lost to sick leave because of either illness or injury during 2021, with only 1 in 4 sick days due to COVID-19. This cost the UK economy an estimated £43 billion.
Of course, your finances are only part of the picture. Creating a healthy work environment will make your employees feel more highly valued, increasing employee engagement and helping you retain a happy and productive workforce. Your approach to employee wellbeing can also influence your ability to attract new talent.
Considering physical and mental health is vital as part of your strategy. In a survey by Mind, 60% of employees reported that it would increase their level of motivation if their employer actively supported mental wellbeing. They'd also be more likely to recommend their employer to other job hunters.
Ways to foster health and wellness in the workplace
There are many ways that you can approach creating a healthy workplace. Understanding your employees' health needs and challenges will help you to create a healthy work environment. A positive workplace culture should initially underpin the approach you choose to take.
1. Create a culture that prioritises wellbeing
It's easy to say that you want to encourage employees to improve their health. However, your action will only be effective if you lead by example. For example, your employees are much more likely to take a proper lunch break if they see their managers doing the same. In addition, building good relationships within teams and between different levels of the business means you'll be more aware of any challenges your employees face and react to them appropriately.
You can achieve this by using some of the following methods:
Show that you take wellness seriously and provide employees with appropriate training during their induction and workplace training. This could be specific to their role and the challenges of your work or more general guidance your staff can use in their daily lives outside work.
Strengthen workplace relationships
Building better relationships can start with an open culture where employees feel that managers listen to their concerns, but it can also include arranging staff get-togethers to encourage them to form friendships. Gallup found that workplaces where employees had become friends experienced increased engagement among staff and customers, higher profits and fewer accidents. This may be because people can reach out for help and discuss concerns before they escalate.
Make employee wellness a management role
Creating a healthy work environment is everyone's responsibility. However, workplace initiatives can often tail off after the initial fanfare unless someone is responsible for monitoring progress. A wellbeing lead (or more than one) can monitor progress and talk to staff to keep them engaged and discover the most effective approach.
2. Work-life balance
Research by the CIPD found that 6.5 million workers in the UK were considering leaving their jobs in 2022, with 25% looking for a better work-life balance. Creating a healthy workplace where employees can take proper breaks and spend time with their families reduces workplace stress and increases productivity. There is a range of options that you can use, including:
- Encouraging staff to take proper breaks during the day and use their annual leave entitlement.
- Create a culture where everyone goes home on time, and overtime is the exception rather than the rule.
- Offer flexible working. This could mean flexible work hours to allow employees to travel outside the rush hour or a combination of office-based work and home working.
- Considering offering unlimited holidays. This allows your team to take a break when needed and lets you focus on results rather than encouraging presenteeism.
These techniques can help employees to manage stress and work around their family commitments.
3. Provide support
Supporting employees to achieve their personal goals is vital to any initiative. Consider taking out group health insurance as part of your employee benefits package. Some policies include access to discounted gym memberships and other wellbeing tools.
An employee assistance programme (EAP) can provide third-party counselling to staff, allowing them to discuss concerns about their work or personal life in confidence.
4. Encourage an active lifestyle
NICE guidance on creating healthy workplaces includes several recommendations, including creating a healthy work environment that encourages physical activity.
This can be as simple as encouraging staff to walk during their breaks, holding walking meetings or organising activity sessions during the day. Choosing a simple activity such as walking can enable everyone to participate and is excellent for team building. Some employers take this a step further and arrange social fitness challenges. You could also consider arranging other sessions, such as yoga or mindfulness training.
You can also encourage your employees to think about their journey to work and provide information on safe walking or cycling routes if these are practical options.
5. Help employees feel valued
Sometimes, an employee leaves a job because they don't feel supported in achieving their long-term goals. Investing in your employees' career progression can lead to increased employee retention. For example, you can provide training or allow staff to spend time on learning and development.
It's also important to recognise your employees' achievements, whether that means an individual thank you to one employee or a reward for the entire team at the end of a project.
6. Provide business health insurance
Most importantly, health insurance gives employees quick access to private healthcare without spending time on an NHS waiting list.
As we've already mentioned, business health insurance includes features that can support your team in achieving their wellbeing goals. These include access to help and advice and can also provide your employees with discounts on everything from gym memberships to fitness tracking technology. Some insurers also offer plans that include health monitoring, allowing employees to set healthy lifestyle goals and work towards them.
Choosing health insurance that includes wellbeing benefits
When looking for the right insurance, consider the elements that will help you create a healthy workplace. Many policies include access to discounts on physical activity, healthcare products and wellbeing apps. For example, Vitality's medical insurance focuses on wellbeing and allows members to earn incentives. You'll also get a discount on your premiums if your employees hit their goals.
7. Look at ways to improve your working environment
The methods you use to improve your employees' workplace environment will vary depending on your work type. For instance, if your staff spend the day sitting, encourage them to move around more or improve their posture to avoid musculoskeletal issues. Ergonomic chairs and standing desks can help. Workers with more physical jobs are likelier to need a place to relax during breaks.
Living plants can help to improve air quality. Plants can also boost your mood, as can listening to music while you work. However, this mustn't become a distraction.
8. Encourage healthy eating
If you have a canteen or offer snacks in staff break rooms, ensure these include healthy options such as fresh fruit rather than chocolate bars. You can also encourage staff to bring more nutritious meals and snacks from home by providing a clean and comfortable place to eat away from their desks. It's also worth ensuring they have a safe place to store their food, so they know it will still be there at lunchtime. Install an office water cooler. They're not just a place to chat; they can help your team stay hydrated and focused. Providing branded water bottles can also be a worthwhile step.
If you've decided to provide training and information to help your team towards a healthier lifestyle, include nutritional education as part of the programme. This doesn't have to be a dry lecture; it could include cookery demonstrations or allow employees to try new foods.
Get in touch
Private medical insurance can provide you and your team with high-quality healthcare and services that help them to create a healthy lifestyle. We're a specialist insurance broker offering a bespoke service to help you find the right medical insurance for your business. Contact us for independent advice and a comparison quote.
Frequently asked questions
How can my business help employees to improve their health?
Taking a well-rounded approach is vital. Practical steps such as providing private medical insurance, offering healthy meals and snacks and encouraging your team to become more physically active are all part of your strategy. However, it's also important to help your staff feel valued at work and to ensure they take proper breaks and leave work on time. This reduces stress and avoids burnout.
How can we build a healthy workplace culture?
First and foremost, you need to lead from the front. Demonstrating good habits enables your team to do the same. You can also encourage staff to build workplace relationships by organising group events and offering training to show that wellbeing is a priority.
Can private medical insurance help my employees get healthier?
Medical insurance provides your team with private healthcare, which typically means shorter waiting times than you'd experience with the NHS. It also comes with various additional services that can form part of your wellness strategy. These can include counselling, practical advice and discounted gym memberships, among other things.
Why is having a healthy workforce important?
Encouraging your staff to get healthier reduces absenteeism, improves engagement by making your employees feel more valued and helps you to attract top talent to your business.