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Why should employers invest in health and wellbeing?

One area where organisations struggle is calculating a return on investment (ROI) for wellbeing initiatives. In 2018 the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) stated the prevalence of presenteeism in organisations had tripled since 2010, growing from 26% to 86% experiencing it. In their minds, this is a big challenge that is only growing.[1] However, in a separate survey by Barnett Waddingham only 23% said presenteeism impacted on productivity. 28% said it didn’t, 30% were unsure and 19% did not even know what presenteeism is.


Without a clear set of metrics, ROI and clear language to explain what health and wellbeing and presenteeism are, perhaps we should think differently about productivity. Should we be thinking at a simpler level: what makes employees happy? Do more of those things. Then influence the areas of work and life that make them unhappy.


The Willis Towers Watson research shows:

  • Only 2 in 10 employees report no financial or stress issues – or another way, 80% do
  • Two additional days are lost per employee each year with combined health and financial issues
  • The 2 in 5 who reported both health and financial issues are three times more likely to be disengaged
  • This population is 34% more likely to live payday to payday and is two and a half times more likely to work past 70


Organisations that invest in health and wellbeing, alongside financial education should be able to benefit from increased engagement and lower absence. Is having good financial and mental health the basis of happiness and, therefore, engagement? How can organisations increase the 20% of employees with no financial or stress issues?


Where should organisations start to develop a health and wellbeing strategy?


Strains put on employees by things like debt, housing and landlord disputes, elder and childcare and mental ill health are all things that can be supported by an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Many organisations have access to one and it is estimated that 68% of employers offer these services,[2] covering around 13.8 million employees.[3]


The EAP Association (EAPA) has launched a ROI calculator.[4] For organisations that contract directly with providers, there is a clear rationale for investing in this service. However, EAPs are also used by Group Risk insurers as a way to potentially prevent sickness absence, to support those struggling with their mental health and for all employees to engage with a benefit on a daily basis. These are provided at no extra cost to the premiums paid and are a great tool to promote.


When people are sick, cash plans and private medical insurance immediately come to mind as ways to avoid long spells away from the workplace on NHS waiting lists, but there are other areas that employers can consider. Canada Life has had a Second Medical Opinion service since 2006 and has found in some years 59% of service users have a change in treatment and 17.8% a change in diagnosis.


People using the service in 2018 had a 50% change in recommendations for cancer treatment;[5] imagine the impact this could have on employees and their family members. Personal health and family health are two clear causes of presenteeism which can reduce productivity, so confidence and clinical certainty is valuable. Having benefits that people can use on a daily basis and which can save and change lives again reinforces the employer-employee value contract.


How should organisations be communicating to employees?


Our research revealed 85% of employees are more likely to work for employers who offer clearly labelled workplace benefits, suggesting workers value benefits but often struggle to understand what is being offered.  The results show clearer information is needed for companies to win the battle to recruit and retain staff.


This trend is particularly pronounced among employees aged 25-34, with 94% agreeing that better labelling would help their decision. The ability to communicate will help one of the primary business objectives of employee benefits: to retain and gain new staff. Clear, consistent communication will also help employees feel valued and secure, with peace of mind that they have support and financial protection.


Apps are incredibly powerful at promoting health, wellbeing and information, especially when aligned with something that gets people coming back to it. We have adopted a range of online and in-store discounts, gift vouchers, cash back and cinema discounts. When people open the app to use them, they find a wealth of information, self-assessment tools and targeted communications embedded within it.


Printed materials like posters, flyers on tables and letters sent home all still have their place. Intranet announcements and emails sometimes get overlooked so wherever possible the personalisation of materials should be embraced. The key is to communicate what the organisation has provided and highlight the value to employees of benefits and support services.








[5]Best Doctors MI 2018