United Kingdom

Employee health: these are the top four employer blind spots

Organisations now see mental health and wellbeing as their top priorities and are providing employees with a range of health and wellbeing benefits to help foster healthy and happy lifestyles.

With the shift in focus in recent years from treatment to prevention, more and more employers recognise the importance of taking a holistic approach, encompassing the five wellbeing pillars of physical, mental, social, financial and career in their employee benefit programmes. This was called out in our 2020 Report: The Rising Resilient.

Awareness and recognition are only part of the story, though. Organisations need to have a comprehensive understanding of the impact of their work environment - including the services they offer. Data can help build this full and accurate picture of workforce health, while strategy must inform the direction of travel based on that data.

Yet, there are several blind spots which can potentially undermine employer initiatives. Here are a few and how to overcome them.

Lagging data

Lagging data, such as number of days lost due to ill health, claims data or employee absence rates provides retrospective insight to employers. It can tell employers how many employees were off with stress the previous year or how many made musculoskeletal-related claims.

The blind spot: While lagging data can provide a useful picture of the current state of workplace health, it only provides insight into health issues which have already arisen.

Leading data

Unlike lagging data, leading data can predict what could happen or is likely to happen in the future based on health data insights. It enables employers to be a lot more proactive in their approach.

The blind spot: Leading data can help build risk profiles based on different demographics, but it does not tell employers which lifestyle factors – such as smoking, drinking, sleeping patterns and so on – are likely to create health issues further down the line.

Accuracy of data

A good health and wellbeing strategy is only as good as the data it relies on. Health data and absence data can both provide extremely useful insights for employers. Absence data in particular, is the most frequently used sources of insight into health and wellbeing.

The blind spot: The recent trend towards remote, agile working and the issue of presenteeism leaves a question mark over the accuracy of employee absence data. Some employee absences may fall under the radar, while many people continue working despite illness, with the nature of their illness failing to be picked up and recorded.

Access to data

Employers have access to a wealth of health data like never before, from claims, absence data, absence management insights or employee listening tools such as pulse surveys and questionnaires.

The blind spot: Not all data is readily available. There may be GDPR issues or issues around confidentiality. In addition, data provided by occupational health or EAP providers may not be in-depth or detailed enough to offer the accurate or meaningful health picture required by some employers.

So, what’s the answer?

What all these blind spots have in common is that most, if not all, can be addressed by simply listening to the employees themselves. Absence management data may suggest there is an issue with anxiety and stress levels, but it won’t say if the office environment is the root cause, just as insight from EAP providers won’t pick up if a proportion of employees are struggling with their finances and why.

Pulse surveys, neurotechnology listening tools, questionnaires carried out on a regular basis can provide valuable insight into employee health, just by asking the right questions.

A major UK employee listening survey aims to do just that. Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, run by Vitality in partnership with Aon, is open for any UK business with 20 or more employees. Thanks to evidence-based, longitudinal data collected since 2012 when the survey was first launched, it provides deep insight into employee’s lifestyle, physical and mental health. It allows employers to benchmark their health and wellbeing strategies against competitors, identify key trends and ultimately, improve business outcomes such as productivity and retention.

To date, 520 organisations and 185,000 employees have taken part. As the UK’s largest ever employee listening survey, it is the gold standard of employee listening tools. The questions, scoring and reporting are managed by an independent board made up of experts and academics across a range of fields – not least public health, behavioural psychology, mental health and workplace wellbeing. The process is chaired by expert medical practitioner, Professor Dame Carol Black.

For any employer wanting to improve their knowledge and gain actionable insights into the health of their workforce, signing up to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace provides credibility to build a business case and help gain funding.



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