Employee wellbeing: the increasing appetite for digital health benefits

digital health benefits for employee wellbeing
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Digital tools are transforming the world of employee benefits, so it’s essential that organisations stay ahead of the curve to reap the rewards of this. 

Financial and mental wellbeing have both been revolutionised by the introduction of EAP services, instant access to online blogs and the availability of anonymised employee data to aid employers in targeting their wellbeing strategies.

Now it's the time for a physical wellbeing overhaul. Some healthcare providers have already embraced this shift and employers have begun to offer employees access to on demand healthcare.  

A few online health and wellbeing services have been in use for a while now, such as health risk assessments, which can help employers shape their health and wellbeing strategies, and online 'lifestyle' portals, which can provide information on how to improve your health and wellbeing in general.

As a society, we have a growing appetite for specific health related information that will help us in dealing with issues we are experiencing in the moment.

The danger of self-diagnosis

With increasingly busy lives, people are relying more on smart phones or tablets to get things done, this can be seen in the rise of 'webMD' style pages, with one in four people admitting choosing to self-diagnose rather than visiting the GP.

However, self-diagnosis can be dangerous, and it is always best to discuss your symptoms with a doctor to ensure that you are fully aware of the health issues you may be facing. With this in mind, healthcare providers need to find ways to stay relevant to patients who are starting to look elsewhere for their healthcare needs.

A recent ACAS report stated that promoting better physical health will encourage and help employees to 'lead full and satisfying lives'.

An overwhelming 85% of workers believe that their employers have a responsibility to support the health and wellbeing of staff. We, at Personal Group, agree, not least because a workforce with easy access to medical advice could become healthier, happier and more productive.

A physical wellbeing strategy is crucial to help employees live longer, healthier lives while simultaneously improving employees' work performance and reducing sickness absence. However, the rise of 'on-demand' services and real-time technology in all aspects of our lives has changed the way many people expect to deal with their health-related issues.

On-demand healthcare

With the sheer amount of streaming services available on all devices, you don't have to wait to watch your favourite show anymore, so why should you have to wait to speak to a healthcare professional?

Our recent survey indicated some worrying trends with regards to the prioritisation of work over health, with the average British worker having worked more than four days whilst genuinely ill in the last year, and over half of UK employees (52%) admitting to delaying seeking medical advice because they didn't want to take time off work.

Of those who did take time off work to see a doctor in the last 12 months, 15.7% took unpaid leave to do so, 17.5% used their annual leave entitlement and 22.4% left work early or arrived late - each of which can have a negative effect on both employee wellbeing and organisational productivity.

All of these figures show a surprising lack of confidence amongst employees of all ages and sectors to take time off when sick, something that could be largely alleviated by the provision of an online GP service.

In a world where poor lifestyle choices are dramatically increasing healthcare costs, it's more important than ever that employers have well-designed digital tools to encourage employees to effectively manage their physical health and wellbeing.

Almost half (47.5%) of respondents said that they would use an online GP if it was quicker than seeing one in person, if they could speak to a doctor at work (29.3%) or if it saved them from having to take time off work (30.8%). An overwhelming 70% of respondents agreed that having access to an online doctor would give them 'peace of mind'.

Online GP services allow employees access to a GP anytime, anywhere. This means that no more time wasted trying to book an appointment and no need to worry about using annual leave to attend an appointment.

Employees will be able take care of their health issues without the hassle of having to arrange and travel to their doctor's surgery. A recent ACAS report stated that promoting better physical health will encourage and help employees to “lead full and satisfying lives”.

Educating the young workforce

Only 12.7% of 16-34 year olds said that their employer is fine with them taking paid time off to visit the doctor. Perhaps because of this, it's unsurprising that that these more junior employees are least likely to seek medical attention: 64.6% of employees under 35 have delayed seeking medical advice because they didn't want to take time off work for a GP appointment.

This can have serious consequences. 50.4% of 16-34 year old employees delayed seeing a doctor, only to discover that they needed medical treatment.

Given this, and wider social trends, it is perhaps unsurprising that the younger demographic is the most enthusiastic about the prospect of digital health check-ups, with a whopping 73.7% of 16-34-year olds saying that they would gain 'peace of mind' from access to an online GP service.

As 16-34 year olds are the 'future' of the workforce, it is important that employers take steps to attract and engage them to their companies.

In a world where poor lifestyle choices are dramatically increasing healthcare costs, it's more important than ever that employers have well-designed digital tools to encourage employees to effectively manage their physical health and wellbeing.

Offering a quick and efficient way to deal with health concerns will increase employee engagement, reduce presenteeism, and improve the overall wellbeing of your workforce.

Want to learn more? Read 'Three ways to improve employees' physical wellbeing'. 

About Hayley Dolby

Hayley Dolby

Hayley is Communications Executive at Personal Group, a technology enabled employee services business which works with employers to drive productivity though better employee engagement and a more motivated workforce. With over 30 years’ experience, the Company provides employee benefits, serving 550 businesses, reaching over 2 million employees across the UK.

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21st Jun 2018 09:21

"Only 12.7% of 16-34 year olds said that their employer is fine with them taking paid time off to visit the doctor." Does this suggest an underlying problem with employment practices? If you really believe that healthy employees are more productive then encouraging access to basic healthcare seems fundamental. Online access to a health professional may be more convenient, sometimes, but you can't diagnose everything remotely.

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