Top tips for providing healthcare initiatives on a budget


Need to know:

  • A thorough understanding of the workforce demographic will help to effectively target employee needs and reduce benefit spend.
  • Existing services can be promoted to produce clear, easy-to-follow pathways for staff.
  • Getting employees involved in internal networks, such as wellbeing champions, can be a strong engagement tool and help to keep costs down.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of employers cite budget as the biggest barrier to introducing the benefits they would like to offer staff, according to the Employee Benefits/Xerox HR Services Benefits research, published in June 2016.

With this is mind, putting together an effective health and wellbeing strategy that still suits smaller budgets can pose a challenge. Beth Robotham, head of business development at Bupa, says: “When I think about cost effective, I think it’s really about value, so having a really clear sense of what is important to [an organisation] will help [employers] make better decisions about where to invest.”

There are several key points to consider that can help employers to achieve this.

1. Create a targeted approach

Understanding the workforce demographic and what their lifestyles involve provides employers with the building blocks for a successful, targeted health and wellbeing strategy that is tailored to employee needs, says Alistair Dornan, head of health management at Capita Employee Benefits. This will ensure that the benefits budget is being spent in the right places.

Utilising data such as employee engagement figures, absence statistics or business performance results can help an employer spot gaps and trends within its workforce, pinpointing key areas that can be improved or highlighted as an area of focus, such as musculoskeletal disorders or workplace stress.

Considering the demographic of an organisation’s workforce is particularly important with today’s multi-generational workforce, says Aaron Boucher, product manager at SimplyHealth. “A 60-year-old is potentially not going to want access to a baby bonus benefit and an 18-year-old might have less need for podiatry or chiropody,” he explains.

2. Look to internal and local resources

Promoting the services an employer already has in place is a great way to draw attention to the benefits available to staff, for example, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), counselling services and health cash plans, all of which can be implemented and sustained on a smaller budget.

Designing effective pathways that integrate an organisation’s existing providers can help employees gain access to the services they need without having to purchase new products. “It’s getting the person who is unwell to the right service at the right time,” Dornan explains.

Alongside this, employers could look to local charities to deliver low-cost solutions, which can be particularly effective in the mental health space, says Dornan. Many charities will be able to provide on-site line manager training, helplines, websites and portals, as well as deliver workshops and talks.

An organisation’s own workforce can also be a great resource. Dornan says: “The recruitment and training of healthcare champions or wellbeing champions is such a powerful way to engage the population.”

3. Provide an overall holistic approach

As well as targeting specific conditions that an employee population may be suffering from, taking a holistic approach to staff wellbeing can also reap rewards without much outlay. Simple initiatives such as providing free fruit and encouraging employees to go for a walk at lunchtime can have an impact, says Fiona Lowe, head of HR and development at Westfield Health.

Regular workshops that focus on subjects such as back care or nutrition can also be a useful tool, says Lowe. Giving out free pedometers for staff to use can help to further encourage a healthier lifestyle.

4. Fine tune employee communications and engagement

Introducing health and wellbeing as a regular topic for discussion can help employees become more aware of what services and benefits are available. Robotham says: “Wellbeing [should become] an integrated theme in how [employers] talk to people, so [it] becomes part of a business culture over time. [An employer] can have the best benefits and wellbeing programmes in the world but if people aren’t connecting to these, then, actually, it’s not a good investment.”

Weaving storytelling methods into communication campaigns can also be a powerful engagement tool. “Quite often you connect to a topic when you hear someone talk about their personal experience,” explains Robotham.

Ultimately, understanding how to re-work and utilise the policies and methods already in place can prove to be a cost-saving measure that still delivers results. As Dornan says: “It’s about re-thinking why [an employer has] provision in the first place and trying to put the employee at the heart of the journey. So many [organisations] don’t do that and then they waste money on unnecessary products.”