Workplace health checks are of increasing interest to employers as they strive to optimise staff health and wellbeing, and there are options available to suit budgets of any size.
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- Employers have a duty of care to optimise their employees’ health and wellbeing.
- Basic workplace health checks can measure employees’ weight and blood pressure.
- But employers need to consider how to get a return on investment.
For example, benefits fairs, where an employer’s healthcare providers showcase their products and services, are a popular, low-cost way to give staff access to health and wellbeing information.
Such fairs have evolved to offer staff basic health checks, such as blood pressure tests and body fat measurement.
Health screening has also become a popular workplace benefit offered by employers that want a more proactive approach to employee health and take the view that the early detection of diseases, such as cancer, can help to reduce the treatment and time off work required by affected employees.
Professor Gordon Wishart, medical director at HealthscreenUK, says: “Cancer, for example, is a common disease that affects one in three people. If they are diagnosed during their working life, they often face quite significant time off work and are obviously a cost to their business, so early detection services can be a significant health benefit.”
Health checks do not normally go as far as health screenings, but many organisations are seeing the value of offering these to their workforce. Employers such as Wates Group (see box below) are giving staff access to a more interactive healthcare benefit in the form of workplace kiosks. These electronic kiosks enable staff to self-test key indicators of their general health, such as weight, hydration and work-life balance.
Kirsten Samuel, founder and managing director of health and wellbeing adviser Kamwell, says health checks that yield meaningful data with which organisations can build a profile of their workforce’s long-term health have the dual advantage of enabling employers to track their return on investment (ROI) while supporting staff health.
“ROI is really important to any employer looking to make an investment these days, whether in employee health, staff training or equipment,” she says. ”The objective is to achieve a higher return on their initial investment.”
Over the last five years, employers have become accustomed to seeking tangible evidence of a benefit’s value before they spend any money, as they come under pressure to provide a business justification for it.
Samuel welcomes this trend. “For too long, employers’ approach to employee wellbeing has been very tactical, implementing ad-hoc wellbeing solutions without any business case or success criteria,” she says. “However, as they now look more strategically at employee wellbeing as a business imperative, things like having meaningful data about their workforce and building a strategy are gaining importance.”
Workplace kiosks have the extra appeal of being relatively low-cost for employers to implement. Chris Evans, senior consultant at benefits adviser Buck Consultants, says: “There is growing demand for lower-cost assessments that take into account some kind of blood biometrics, and cholesterol and glucose checks. We are seeing employers that don’t have thousands of pounds to spend on full-blown health assessments being more receptive to something that costs substantially less.”
Kamwell’s Samuel says that as well as seeking financial ROI , employers will, in future, place greater importance on the softer, value-based benefits of workplace healthcare support, such as improved staff productivity, morale, resilience and engagement.
There are also gains for employers’ employee value propositions, which can help to attract and retain quality staff.
Kevin Thomson, head of employee wellbeing at Nuffield Health, says: “The war for talent means that employers want to offer benefits that staff desire.”
HealthscreenUK’s Wishart adds: “There are many organisations where salaries have not gone up that much in the last few years, so employers are looking at other ways to retain staff, and health benefits are one of those ways.”
However, employers’ duty of care towards their employees, rather than ROI, should be the primary driver of any health benefits programme. Buck Consultants’ Evans says: “I wouldn’t think of driving my car for three or four years without getting it serviced, and checking the oil and the tyre pressures. If I had a problem, no matter how minor, I wouldn’t leave it to see what happened.
“Employers need to run their workforce at an optimum level, and have got to give employees every chance of doing that, which means making them aware of health needs and health risks.
Oliver Gray: Do workplace health checks give employers value for money?
Do workplace health kiosks really create change and improve employee wellbeing? Is health screening the best use of employers’ wellbeing budget? In my experience, the answer is no to both these questions.
The number one objective for any employee wellbeing activity is to improve the health and wellbeing of staff. So employers need to look at what they spend their budget on. They need to ensure the activities they choose really do have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of staff, in the most cost-effective way to deliver a real return on investment.
Training and coaching
By far the most effective way to improve employee wellbeing is through training and coaching. Inspiring staff to make simple, positive changes to their lifestyle and habits will enable them to improve their health and wellbeing and minimise their risk of illness. It will also help improve productivity.
This can be carried out in various ways. Some more proactive employers include health-related information on their intranet, provide short workshops and/or organise health and wellbeing days.
The workshops and wellbeing days give staff an opportunity to speak to experts on topics such as how they manage pressure, improving resilience, healthy eating, regular exercise, sleep, work-life balance and how to stop smoking.
When employers are looking at other workplace health checks, such as health screening, they really need to ask: is this the best use of my budget and will it create change in the lifestyles of our employees?
A combination of education, training and coaching is needed to inspire staff to change their lifestyle. This is rarely achieved by giving them health statistics.
The two most important, relevant and accurate pieces of health screening (blood pressure and cholesterol) are better done with a GP and are therefore free for staff.
In summary, employers really need to ensure they get a return for their investment in wellbeing activities, which means an improvement in staff health, wellbeing and energy.
Oliver Gray is founder of energiseYou
Wates Group values benefit suitability over ROI
Wates Group has yet to decide how it will monitor the return on investment (ROI) of the workplace health kiosks it is introducing this year.
But Melisa Hanratty, HR programme manager at Wates Group, says ROI is not the programme’s focus. “It is less about money and more about getting something that is right for the business and tangible for employees,” she says.
Hanratty arranged a robust beauty parade before choosing The Wellbeing Group as kiosk provider. She ranked contenders on a range of criteria, including commitment, communication, cost, quality and assurance management, and business ethics.
“We went out to market and considered a number of different options and our view was that we wanted something that was cost-neutral and modern, while engaging,” she says.
Wates is introducing two kiosks, which will be moved around its various sites between Glasgow and London.
The kiosks enable staff to track a range of health indicators, taking factors such as their weight, age and lifestyle into account.