United Kingdom

Designing a wellbeing programme relevant to employees

May 2017


In Aon's latest whitepaper, Wellbeing: The correlation between employee health and financial wellbeing, it asks whether employers are doing enough to support employee wellbeing.

The answer is no, but not because employers aren't prioritising employee wellbeing. They absolutely are prioritising it - businesses are all too aware of the link between wellbeing and productivity and engagement. Indeed, 92 per cent of UK employers polled for our 2016 EMEA Health survey saw a clear correlation between health and employee performance.

But there's always more that can be done. In particular, employers need to think differently, they need a different approach to health and wellbeing, especially where mental health is concerned.

We know that a one-size-fits all approach doesn't work, not when the workforce is made up of so many different generations and so many different demographics.

Employers need therefore, a highly-targeted approach. One that is rooted in rich workforce data so any strategies which are implemented are actually addressing a specific workforce health issue.

Crucially, data reporting and analytics provide valuable insight into the health demographic of the workforce. Data will tell you if there's a proportion of your workforce who are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, if some are at risk of heart disease or if some are living with back pain.

It can tell you what percentage of staff are smokers and if there's a stress-related issue in the workplace. With such an accurate picture of workforce health risks, employers can start to design an employee wellbeing programme which is relevant to their staff.

So how do you go about designing an employee wellbeing programme that is relevant to the workforce?

According to Mark Witte, principal at Aon Employee Benefits, best practice programme design should be evidence-based and utilise any available data to build a risk profile for the workforce.

The employer should then take stock of the current range of benefits, services and initiatives in place that can be targeted at addressing such risks. Such an analysis could also consider the broader demographic - how it is segmented, company culture, current engagement and communication channels.

"Armed with this full insight, programme design can be refined, enhanced where necessary with additional resources and then executed, supported by a robust communications exercise," he explains.

"The final stage would be to revisit data at agreed points in the future to look at key performance metrics and measure the impact of specific actions. This in turn would shape future design strategy and promote the continuous improvement of the programme."

Crucially, with 65 per cent of employers reporting that stress and mental health issues are their biggest workforce health concern according to Aon's EMEA Health Survey in 2016, mental health should play a key part in any wellbeing strategy.

Charles Alberts, senior consultant and mental health specialist at Aon Employee Benefits suggests implementing a formal policy towards mental health.

"Having a formal policy sends a positive message from the top, can help employees feel more protected and it provides a framework to guide all stakeholders on how mental health is managed in the workplace," he says.

Increasing mental health literacy can help, too. Educating employees about mental health can be a powerful tool in tackling stigma and encouraging more conversations around mental health issues. Employers should guard against a one-off campaign, though. Mental health and wellbeing should be part of the fabric of the workforce and therefore requires an on-going effort via varied channels.

Specialist training for line managers should form part of this, says Alberts, to ensure line managers are equipped with the right level of knowledge and feel confident in discussing mental health issues with their team managers.

Witte adds: "Mental health should form a cornerstone of any wellbeing strategy. And as evidenced by our 2017 whitepaper, it is inexorably linked to other key pillars of wellbeing, such as social and financial.

"Mental health has featured heavily in the opening salvos of the current election campaign with all leading parties making early, pre-manifesto pledges for additional funding in the NHS and calling for the stigma attached to mental health to be eliminated. But regardless of the election outcome, the NHS alone cannot carry the full mental health burden. This leaves employers deciding on how far they need to or indeed should go, to offer additional support themselves."



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