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Linking lifestyles to productivity at work

How can employers know that they have the right healthcare strategy in place for their staff that can also help keep them productive?

05 June 2017
Helen Swire

The same modifiable risks that affect health also influence productivity. So, by investing in the health of your employees, you are effectively addressing the risks that are having an impact on your bottom line – a powerful connection to make.

 

Research from the latest Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) survey (developed by Vitality) found that, for the average company, the cost of lost productivity is approximately 9.6% of its wage bill, with the aver­age employee losing over 27.5 days of productive time each year due to ill health. While many organisations are aware that lost productivity has a significant financial cost, many are unaware of the steps they can take to reduce it.

 

Changing a company’s health culture

 

In our experience globally, we have found that programmes that have most impact on employee health are not simply bolt-ons to a business, they are fully integrated into workplace culture.

 

That means they are initiated both top-down – from a board and executive level – and bottom-up, by engaging employees in their own wellness. Our research shows that by reporting on workplace wellness programmes to the board alone increases participation by 112%.

 

The first thing to understand is the lifestyle and clinical risks to which your staff members are exposed, and segment them on the basis of their risk factors and their engagement with wellness overall.

 

Vitality uses its proprietary Vitality Age tool, and bespoke productivity model (which looks at 12 modifiable drivers of productivity loss) to do this, and we pay attention to risks such as smoking, lack of exercise, musculo­skeletal issues, and stress.

 

For example, a large company may have staff who are already engaged with wellness, as well as those who are chronically ill, plus a group that are not leading healthy lives and may be at risk – each has different motivators, needs and requires a bespoke solution to deliver optimal outcomes.

 

The second step is to initiate a suite of tailored interventions. This may mean different incentives for each group to motivate them and sustain change (the bottom-up approach) and communicating and delivering them via effective management training (the top-down approach).

 

Whatever the individual health profiles of a workforce, certain benefits are proven to connect people with their own wellness. These include low-cost interventions such as providing fresh fruit in the workplace, and bicycle stor­age facilities, or allowing staff to take part in healthy activities during the working day (by going to the gym at lunchtime, for example), and extending benefits to employees’ families.

 

Through VitalityHealth, employers can offer a range of intelligent incen­tives to help staff get healthy: for example, discounted gym member­ship and activity trackers, as well as rewards to keep them motivated, such as weekly Starbucks drinks and cinema tickets.

 

The productivity pay-off

 

The third and final step is to measure the improvement in risk factors. That might mean monitoring the number of people who have given up smoking, who attend the gym regularly, or who lose weight. By tracking both absen­teeism and presenteeism, businesses can clearly see the benefits of their interventions, not just on staff health but on that of their business as well.

 

Using BHW data, for example, we see that the healthiest employees, as measured using our Vitality Age tool, have the equivalent of 33 days addi­tional productive time each year. Importantly, we also see the link between lifestyles and productiv­ity; employees who lose weight, or increased the amount of exercise they did for example, reduced their presen­teeism over the course of a year. The message is clear; improved health and lifestyles means improved productiv­ity. This is a win-win for both employ­ees and their organisation.


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