How to motivate employees to be healthy

Posted on September 18, 2015 by Daniel Tiley

Basket of fruitGaining insight into employees' attitudes and behaviours towards health can be very beneficial to your business. If you understand how your employees view health, then you can implement changes to your health and wellbeing strategy that truly make a difference.

A tool that can help you with this is the Simplyhealth Everyday Health Tracker. Run on a quarterly basis in conjunction with YouGov, the tracker measures people's attitudes and behaviours towards their everyday health, covering everything from diet and exercise, to the health issues that concern people the most.

A key finding from the first wave is that 14% of people say they have little or no responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. So what can you do to engage your employees and encourage them to manage their health?

Let's take a look at some more insights from the Everyday Heath Tracker and see how you can address them.

Everyday health conditions as worrying as `Big Three'

When thinking about health conditions people worry just as much about everyday healthcare conditions as much as serious conditions including:

  • stroke
  • cancer
  • heart disease

You can help to ease your employees' worries by providing them with health related information that helps them to understand how to look after their everyday health.

Offering your employees an online health portal or hub can be an effective way of doing this. Here you can host a range of health information that your employees can use to check if they are worried, meaning they can settle their minds, stay happy and focus on work.

Some corporate health plans actually come with such a benefit, so that's something to keep in mind when researching your health and wellbeing strategy.

NHS guidelines on diet and exercise not having enough effect

Only 17% of people take the recommended level of aerobic exercise.

Encouraging employees to cycle to work by offering a cycle to work scheme is not only good for their health but it can also be cheaper for them. This benefit has become more and more prevalent within businesses. In fact, when people were asked what benefits they received from their employer, the highest answer was a cycle to work scheme.

Another way to get employees active is via discounts for gym and leisure facilities. Brokering a staff discount at these facilities may incentivise the experience and see more employees staying active outside of work.
This can help to keep them fit, which in turn can boost their morale and help them to stay focused at work.

Employees worry about debilitating health conditions

More specific everyday health conditions that employees worry about include joint and back pain.

This worry is well founded when you consider that Health & Safety Executive's statistics show that 44% of all work related illnesses are musculoskeletal disorders.

Last year alone absence cost small business over '490 million in direct costs, with back pain being one of the two biggest contributors. The cost is thought to be even more for large businesses due to a higher rate of absenteeism.

To help reduce the risk of such conditions developing among your workforce why not give your employees access to physiotherapy sessions, carry out regular equipment checks and encourage employees to get away from their desks and stretch throughout the working day.

By being proactive and trying to prevent the onset of musculoskeletal disorders, you can reduce absence rates and lower the amount of cost to your business.

Man on exercise machineEmployers valuing the importance of mental health

Workplace counselling is the second most provided benefit for employees after a cycle to work scheme.

This suggests more of a focus is being placed on mental health as a part of an overall health and wellbeing strategy, and rightly so. Having a healthy workforce isn't just about your employees' physical health, but ensuring you have supportive measures for employees' mental health.

With this in mind it can be vital to consider what support you currently have in place. Giving your employees the option of counselling sessions, whether face to face or over the phone, is essential in caring for their wellbeing. It can also create a positive culture around mental health within your workplace.

Middle aged people storing up health problems

Asked to rate their own health, those aged 45+ underestimate their potential health problems the most. Once people reach the over 55 age group they're more likely to visit health practitioners such as the doctor and pharmacist. They also become more concerned about the risk of serious illness.
In order to increase awareness of serious health risks and the importance of regular check-ups and screenings, you'll need to regularly offer easy to access information on this topic.

Easy and accessible ways in which you can promote this information include:

  • an online health portal
  • on your intranet
  • internal emails
  • posters
  • workshops
  • guest speakers

A nation of carers

A third of people have cared for others (not including children) in the past three months. With half of these people saying it had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
Your employees may have other pressures outside of work that can affect their health and wellbeing. By recognising this you can help them to keep a healthy work/life balance. A great way to relieve any extra pressure your employees are feeling is to have a policy of flexible working hours. This can give them the breathing room to manage their time, their health and that of the people they care for, enabling them to be more productive at work.

Offer on-site health initiatives

Health initiatives that actually take place at work can help to kick start and maintain your employees' interest in their health.

Examples of initiatives you could introduce include:

  • a reoccurring free fruit day
  • an on-site health clinic that regularly visits, giving your employees the opportunity to speak to a GP about any worries they may have
  • `know your numbers' appointments ' sessions that help your employees to understand their blood pressure, blood glucose, BMI, cholesterol and weight

Make it easier for your employees to be proactive about their health

Health cash plans encourage your employees to visit their dentist, optician or healthcare practitioner (for example, a physiotherapist) by giving them cash back on the cost of such visits.

Some also come with GP services can that be a huge advantage to your business. Benefits can include 24/7 access to a GP via phone and the option for your employees to have any resulting prescription delivered to their home or work.

Not only can this help to encourage personal responsibility for health among your workforce, it can also help to reduce short term absence rates when an employee is unwell, as they will not have to be subject to GP appointment waiting times, meaning there will be less cost to your business.

NHS England's GP Patient Survey ' National Summary Report found that 17.9% of patients this year had to wait for a week or more for an appointment, up from 15.9% last year.

By introducing a health and wellbeing strategy that makes it easier for your employees to be responsible for their own health, you'll be able to effectively manage absence, recruitment and retention rates.

Here at Simplyhealth we may have a solution for you. The Simply Cash Plan gives your employees cash back on their everyday healthcare appointments and offers a range of GP services that make it even easier for your employees to manage their health.

Reinvigorate your employees' drive to stay healthy

For more information on how we can help email [email protected]

Or call 0300 100 1188