Opinion: how employers can tackle employee health issues and improve business performance

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Sophie Poole, head of graduate recruitment at Express Vending, discusses how the workplace is becoming a key focus in the fight against obesity

According to latest Government statistics, UK health issues are continuing to rise, despite a multitude of health awareness campaigns being promoted across various media platforms. 27% of adults in England are currently obese and with the average UK adult spending over 60% of their time at work, the workplace is becoming a key focus in the fight against the na tional obesity epidemic and other public health issues – including stress.

Implementing a health and wellbeing strategy

Implementing a strong health and wellbeing strategy in your business will make employees feel valued as individuals, and staff are often more motivated when they feel their efforts are appreciated by their employer. However, 59% of UK employees agree their employers could make their offices better, with small initial health investments. These could include offering tailored eating or exercise plans under consultation with experts, encouraging smoking cessation programmes and organising regular reviews to monitor progress.

Only 45% of UK companies currently have a clearly defined wellbeing strategy, but a healthier office environment increases productivity, reduces sickness absence, and contributes to greater staff retention.

Employee benefit programmes

Reviewing existing employee benefits programmes is a good way to start looking at what your company might be missing when it comes to health options. It’s important to communicate with employees to find out what they want from a benefits package, as these insights can enable you to tailor programmes to the unique needs of your workplace.

First, determine your budget and create a demographic map of your employees. Then, begin creating a detailed picture of your employees’ concerns, needs and expectations by hosting focus groups and producing surveys.

A programme could include discounts on a local gym membership, free access to online medical consultations or regular workshops focused on stress-relief, sleep issues or time management.

Improve in-house catering

A diet high in refined sugar, saturated fat and non-complex carbohydrates can result in low energy and concentration levels, headaches and mood swings, equating to a potential 66% drop in productivity at work.

This makes access to healthy and quality food choices within the workplace a must. Catering partners should be selected based on their abilities to offer nutritious, balanced food and drink offerings at all times.

Create calmer working environments

In 2016 stress accounted for 37% of all work-related health cases, attributed to workload pressures, commuting and lack of workplace support. Good office design can create better working environments through integrating different groups across your business. This in turn, can create a feeling of community, rather than just a workplace. Shared eating places encourage interaction during downtime, whilst quiet zones can assist employees when they need to focus without distractions.

To compete in the crowded jobs market, businesses must continue to proactively shape health and wellbeing strategies to attract and retain talent. Companies can no longer depend solely on remuneration to keep staff engaged. It is the extras and ‘perks’, such as a healthy work environment, strong employee benefits packages and access to nutritional food options, that will set companies apart from their competitors.

Sophie Poole is head of graduate recruitment at Express Vending


Read more about dealing with stress in the workplace from Health Ambition, here.