Last year, Unilever extended its traditional benefits package, which includes private medical insurance, with the launch of a wellbeing programme, Vitality into Action.
Its first wellbeing initiative was a 15-minute health screening which checked details such as employees’ weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, and provided tailored health information or referrals where further investigation was necessary. Although this was voluntary, around 50% of the workforce took part.
Unilever used the results to determine its health strategy. Dean Patterson, health and productivity manager, says: “We noted three key issues: body mass indexes and blood cholesterol levels were high and a lot of staff were not getting enough exercise.” To address this, the company introduced physical activity and improved nutrition initiatives by including MiLife, a nutrition-focussed programme which provides participants with short-term, but achievable, goals. Unilever also targeted the seven sites where its initial screening findings were poorest.
This has produced results. “We are seeing growing evidence of the popularity of healthier menus at all our sites, and where we have gyms there has been a significant increase in use, in some cases up [by] more than 30%.
“Also, the 250 staff who trialled MiLife lost an average of 3.4 kilograms over a 12-week period. The data showed us that unless we encouraged people to make significant lifestyle changes, nearly a quarter of those participating were at risk of developing cardiovascular disease within10 years. We have made a good start to a long journey,” adds Patterson.
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