Employee health and wellbeing is now firmly on the business agenda. The days of simply offering private medical insurance, perhaps complemented by a health cash plan, are long gone as employers increasingly look to support, and engage with, employees’ holistic health and wellbeing needs.
Instead, the role employers have to play in supporting the health of the workforce, along with recognition of the advantages of doing so, continues to rise in importance.
This only looks set to develop further. Several trends that are starting to emerge from the United States could radically alter UK employers’ health and wellbeing strategies. Some UK organisations, for example, have added genetic testing to their workplace health and wellbeing propositions to test for certain cancer and cardiac risks, or to engage staff with lifestyle issues such as fitness and nutrition.
Elsewhere, UK employers could follow the trend currently building in the US by introducing sleep management to their health and wellbeing strategies. A person’s sleeping habits can impact their concentration and productivity levels, so addressing these can directly benefit employers.
In some cases, the benefits offered by employers may also have advantages that extend beyond the obvious. Ensuring these are fully realised and optimised, therefore, can greatly benefit employers. With proven links between poor oral health and kidney disease, for example, dental benefits can be used far more strategically to identify, and in some cases go some way toward mitigating a risk of serious conditions or diseases from developing.
Optical benefits, meanwhile, can help to detect conditions such as diabetes.
Strategies are also being shaped by changing demographics, as well as shifting employee expectations. The rise of the multi-generational workforce encompassing five different generations, for example, means employers are facing a more diverse range of health issues and needs than ever before.
As both employers’ and employees’ requirements and expectations evolve, the pressure is on benefits providers to do the same. As a result, the past few years have seen a great deal of development across all sections of the healthcare and wellbeing market, particularly in the technological space. I fully expect that we will see this continue.