Canvassing employee opinion is vital in assessing what health perks will ultimately suit your staff’s needs
Devising a wellbeing strategy to complement standard employee healthcare benefits and employers’ workplace obligations is one thing, but the real key to the success of any such initiative is to add value. The measure of value will very much depend on the workforce and the kinds of things that will appeal to each organisation’s employees.
Canvassing the views of staff is essential to get the right benefits in place and to ensure employees understand what is on offer and how it can help them. These additional benefits need not be costly to the employer and so can suit those on a budget, but of course they can also be implemented by organisations with more resources.
The sorts of things employers can look at to add value to their health and wellbeing strategy include gym membership, either fully paid for by the employer, subsidised, or offered at a discounted rate due to employer’s buying power. Most privately-owned and national chains will offer employers corporate deals.
Then there are healthy eating options. If an organisation is large enough to have a staff canteen, providing healthy meal options is an excellent way of making it easier for individuals to eat well. And if a company budget or facilities do not stretch to a staff restaurant, having fresh fruit or juices available within departments is a cost-effective way of proffering some of the ‘five-a-day’ fruit and vegetable options which everyone is encouraged to have in their diets.
Julie Waddington, consultant on the healthcare team at the financial advisory arm of consulting firm Punter Southall, advises: "More flexible working hours, access to water and fruit, promoting exercise and health awareness, duvet days, even the type of strip lighting that’s within the office can all make a positive enhancement to an employee’s working environment and therefore physical and mental wellbeing."
Making programmes available to help with weight loss or stopping smoking can do the same. If budgets are really stretched then just signposting similar programmes available on the NHS or locally and being flexible around time off to attend appointments demonstrates support for staff.
Encouraging group activities, such as a lunchtime running club, can also help employees improve their health with the support of their colleagues and go some way to addressing work-life balance issues.
And for getting to and from work, a bikes-for-work scheme offered through salary sacrifice can be a tax-efficient way for staff to acquire a bicycle and some exercise.
Bigger budgets, of course, can mean bigger ticket benefits. Larger organisations may consider on-site gym facilities or even swimming pools, which will be of real value to those employees based on sites some distance from local facilities.
Making a health and wellbeing strategy succeed
Clive Pinder, managing director of health management company Vielife, says: "Small things that can add a culture of health will have dramatic impact. Set a tone of a culture of good health by having fresh fruit around the office, ask the provider of any vending machine to put healthy snacks in there [and] make sure water is available because dehydration is a well-known cause of lack of productivity." Even reviewing things like how meetings are conducted can be a chance to boost employees’ health. One client Pinder works with, for example, takes some meetings outside the office. "Just taking a walk while you are discussing [things] can be beneficial," he says.