In recent years it has become more and more obvious to business owners that a healthy workforce is also a productive one. Not only do employees who feel well, work well, but they are less likely to incur additional costs to the company in terms of sick pay or loss of profit. In response to this need to encourage health, corporations are now starting to use internal health programs to monitor and improve the wellness of their staff.
What is Corporate Health?
Any scheme or initiative that is run by a company to improve the health or well-being of its staff could be called a Corporate Health scheme. Generally, these are structured throughout the year and offered on an ongoing basis to staff members to allow them to monitor and track the changes and improvements that come from the scheme.
While the idea has been popular in the US where healthcare is paid for on a private basis, these schemes are becoming more popular in countries such as the UK where healthcare is government funded. This is because companies are recognising the important financial benefits associated with happy and healthy staff members.
In the UK the government has set up the Fit for Work scheme using NICE guidelines which is designed to take some of the pressure off the National Health Service and pass that responsibility on to the employer. While this may sound onerous for companies, it is, in fact, a win-win situation for all involved.
What does a corporate health program focus on?
This may depend entirely on the needs of the workforce. For example those working in a heavy lifting environment may benefit from general fitness, core body strength exercise programs or from back health initiatives aimed at improving posture. However most schemes are general overviews. They may look at offering support for those who want to stop smoking, lose weight or take up more exercise. Staff may also be monitored for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure and may even have their skin moles checked to monitor for possible skin cancer changes.
But it is not entirely physical health that is focused on. Mental health is also important and other schemes may offer counselling, stress alleviating meditation, yoga or group therapy. In the UK, 11.7 million workdays were lost to anxiety and depression during 2016 and 37% of all days off related to illness were due to stress. It is very clear that corporate wellness schemes need to take physical and mental health into consideration.
What makes a corporate health program worthwhile for the employer?
Businesses that have offered corporate health programs regularly report that they see less absenteeism, higher job satisfaction among employees, a higher number of staff staying at the company in the long term and they see lowered healthcare costs for their employees – if they offer these types of insurances.
In fact one studycarried out in 2012 for the Journal of Health Promotion in the US showed that companies with health programs saw a 25% reduction in sick pay costs. Another Harvard Business Review showed that health care costs increased by just 1% for companies that had a scheme in place compared to 7% for those that did not.
The benefits for staff
It is easy to see the benefits of corporate health programs for the employer, but what about those taking part? Seeing the benefits will encourage participation which in turn helps both the employee and the employer.
- Having an overall picture of your health can encourage a more healthy lifestyle. For example, knowing that you have a mole on your skin will allow you to take charge of monitoring it and knowing when it is time to have it checked.
- These programs actually save time and money for staff members. They will need to take less time to visit their doctor for routine issues, they are likely to be healthier and need less time off and they will even feel more inclined to work harder, possibly getting overtime or performance-related bonuses.
- The employee will also feel a greater sense of connection with their workplace and their management. These schemes are set up with the goodwill of staff in mind and this feeling reaches into everyday working life. Staff will just feel better coming to work and will work harder.
- Staff will also have a sense of competition with their fellow colleagues and feel like a part of a team when they recognise that managers have the same health issues as they do. Leading by example in these situations can come from all parts of the company hierarchy with those at the bottom of the pay scale showing the way forward to those at the top.
How to encourage staff take-up
- Make the programs easy to access and practical: This might mean offering classes at lunchtimes or during the normal working day rather than before or after work.
- Offer incentives: Bringing in a little competition into the workplace can really help to incentivise the staff to take part. A cash prize is even better.
- Ensure the workplace environment is supportive: Teaching staff to look after their diet and then offering little more than junk food in the staff canteen is counter-productive. This type of corporate change has to exist across the entire workforce and work environment. The workplace should also offer quiet areas, natural light, appropriate heating and proper seating to ensure that all the hard work does not go to waste.
- Make it long term: Upon introduction, health schemes can seem intrusive, but if it becomes a part of the culture of the business it will be ingrained and seen as a benefit along with holiday pay and health insurance. That means that corporate health deserves its own department, budget and administration to ensure it runs successfully.
Health screenings – intrusive or necessary?
It is entirely up to the company involved to choose the types of health programs they might want to offer, but some can (and should) involve health marker checks such as blood pressure and type 2 diabetes screenings. For some employees, this may feel intrusive and they may prefer not to participate.
There are a number of ways a company can get around this. It is possible to allow employees to be anonymous, to have private log-ins to their own information or for them to pick and choose those tests they would like to have completed. But as a company, it is important to get across to the employees the reasons for taking part and the positive outcomes that could come for the staff members – especially for their own wellbeing and health.
Corporate Health is fast becoming an important part of life as an employee, no matter what type of government health schemes are offered. Employers need to take responsibility for their staff and to offer ways and means to get the best from them and to give back for the work they do. A health initiative is a great start and will work in everyone’s favour.