Stephen Hackett: Bespoke health and wellbeing strategies

A robust health and wellbeing strategy relies on board level buy-in from the outset.

Healthcare premiums often account for a large part of employers’ benefits spend. That is why a workplace health and absence prevention strategy is of growing importance to organisations seeking to create affordable, attractive and innovative benefits packages. So where should they start in creating a bespoke strategy?

An employer’s first move should be to identify what it is trying to achieve. Is it a change in the culture of its workforce, with a view to longer-term reductions in benefits spend? Or is it to create a happier environment to help increase employee recruitment, retention and productivity? Either way, it is the end goal that will help to shape its wellbeing programme.

Analyse barriers

Once targets are set, employers should then analyse any barriers preventing them from achieving these goals, as well as identify the health profile of their workforce. This analysis should focus on an employer’s existing workplace health strategy and consider the views of its employees. This can be done through a staff questionnaire or survey to help identify the issues that are important to the whole workforce and enable employers to offer appropriate benefits.

Employers should consider bespoke benefits solutions based on a combination of analysis and employee questionnaires. For example, an organisation may identify through its analysis that engagement in physical activity is low, while its staff questionnaire identified a desire to exercise more, but an inability to do so because of lack of time and resources.

Working hours policy

Employers may therefore want to change their working hours policy to enable staff to use a nearby gym and offer subsidised membership as an employee benefit, with a view to improving employee health and reducing healthcare policy claims related to a sedentary lifestyle.

This analysis and an identification of the required action will dictate how long it will take to devise a health and wellbeing strategy, and how much resourcing and funding is required.

It is vital for employers to secure buy-in from their board when they set out to devise a health and wellbeing strategy, especially from colleagues who have a vested interest in the project, such as HR and finance directors.

The advantages of a comprehensive health and wellbeing programme are likely to be particularly challenging to communicate to senior employees because of the time pressures already on them, which is why project creators need to fully understand what their overall targets will achieve for their organisation if the programme is implemented.

Cost is stumbling block

Cost is a common stumbling block for such programmes because of the resourcing and funding required. As part of their business plan, HR and benefits professionals should ensure they highlight how and why this funding must be considered alongside the longer-term benefits of increasing employee presenteeism and productivity, and business revenue, while reducing the spend on healthcare benefits premiums.

The biggest mistake an employer can make when introducing a bespoke wellbeing programme is not conducting the appropriate analysis, which should involve all staff. Without this, a programme will not be bespoke to the organisation and will not achieve the employer’s defined targets and objectives.

If introduced properly, however, a wellbeing programme can improve the morale, health and engagement of a workforce, while targeting specific health risks within an organisation.


  • A successful wellbeing strategy has clear business objectives.
  • Executive support for a strategy is key, particularly from finance.
  • Flexible working can enable employees to use a nearby gym at their convenience


Stephen Hackett is head of health management at Capita Employee Benefits