Now that all large and even medium-sized employers have launched pensions auto-enrolment, for better or for worse, attention is turning to wider HR and benefits topics again.
The benefits area I am hearing spoken about most is that of employee health and wellbeing. Several benefits advisers and consultants have been promoting this side of their business more strongly in recent months. While there has been some strong interest from key clients, some admit things are largely still in discussion phase so we are not expecting a massive surge of wellbeing programmes just yet.
But in the future attitudes could look very different.
Last month I had the privilege of attending Zurich’s Future History Now seminar, which looked forward to the workplace of 2018. At the event, Dame Carol Black, principal of Newnham College, University of Cambridge and advisor to the Department of Health, outlined why health, particularly mental wellbeing, would be the “great untapped resource of the UK workforce” in 2018.
She predicted that in 2018:
- The difference between successful and unsuccessful companies will be how well they embrace and support the health and wellbeing agenda.
- Recognising that health and wellbeing practices increase productivity, companies will be supported and trained to follow good practice on a day-to-day basis, in recognising the signs of stress, building resilience, holding return-to-work interviews and addressing health issues in appraisal.
- Training managers on health and wellbeing of staff will be the norm and included in business schools’ curricula.
- Over 28 million people go to work every day in the UK. Workplace-based health management practices will prevent illnesses by catching problems before employees become unwell, leading to a more engaged and productive workforce.
- Mental health issues will become less taboo and people returning to work after time off with a mental health issue will be treated in the same way as someone returning to work after a physical illness, condition or accident.
- Keeping patients in employment, or returning them to it, will become an indicator of care quality for Mental Health Services.
- Companies will have programmes in place to facilitate positive mental health and resilience and will have embraced Mental Health First Aid.
- Workforce will be a key priority for businesses. Engaged workforces are safer and more productive even now:
- NHS hospitals with high staff engagement have standardised patient mortality rates lower (by 2.5%) than hospitals with medium engagement.
- The UK Olympic Delivery Authority had an accident frequency rate of 0.17 per 100,000 hours worked by June 2011, less than half the average for the construction industry. This was attributed to strategies known to improve employee engagement.
- With an aging population, working longer and keeping fitter will be the norm.
- In four years, employers and employees will understand that the fullest possible working life benefits individuals and society, which will influence their business practices.
- Schools and companies will routinely encourage an attitude of ensuring one’s mental and physical health from early in life. Employment beyond the age of 65 will be common, not just for those with mid to high levels of education.
- Renewing and expanding skills throughout life, and developing the skills needed for a different job, is the norm not the exception.
Real food for thought – but can we really get there in just four years?