UK employers may want to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees by introducing wellness initiatives, but many of these will fail to deliver significant results because of a lack of health data about their employees.
A new survey from Aon Employee Benefits[i], the UK health and benefits business of Aon plc recently found that nearly 40 per cent of employers don’t use any data to drive corporate health and wellbeing strategies or target costs. This is in spite of increasing numbers of employers wanting to understand the health risks affecting their employees.
Last year the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)[ii] highlighted that workplace health is a significant public health issue and each year, more than a million working people in the UK experience a work-related illness. This leads to 27 million lost working days costing the economy an estimated £13.4 billion.
The reasons for poor workplace health are widespread and include long irregular hours, lack of control over work and discriminatory practices.
The Aon survey confirms our experience that wellness initiatives are more effective when they are targeted and form part of an overall absence management plan. A good absence management system can help managers view patterns of absence, both at an individual, departmental and company-wide level and you can use the information to mould your wellness strategy accordingly.
Using absence management data to drive wellness initiatives means you can identify and respond to health challenges you would otherwise miss. For example anti-stress initiatives are all well and good but how do companies know they are reaching the right people? Recent research from CV-Library, revealed a massive 63.5% of sufferers wouldn’t be honest about taking time off for stress or depression. Sufferers of workplace stress are often disengaged, so it’s a challenge to get them to engage in wellbeing initiatives or counselling.
No manager wants their staff off on long term sick leave and the onus is on employers to tackle absenteeism head on. Absence analytics can help companies pick up patterns of sickness and signs of stress and intervene if necessary to find out why someone is having a lot of time off sick. A gentle return to work interview process can enable these employees to be identified and offered appropriate support at an early stage.
Wellness initiatives are not just about tackling sickness, so much as managing all your resources, tackling cultural issues and responding to known challenges using every tool available. Knowing more about your employee’s health to guide wellbeing policies is far more effective in the long run.