15th Dec, 2023 Read time 4 minutes

Workplace Wellness That Works: Building an Effective Employee Health Programme

Promoting employee health and wellbeing is becoming an increasingly critical priority for organisations. With rising rates of chronic illnesses, obesity and mental health issues in the workforce, implementing comprehensive workplace wellness programmes can lead to tangible benefits – from reduced absenteeism and lower healthcare costs, to improved productivity and job satisfaction.

Creating programmes that effectively support employees across all areas of health requires thoughtful planning and execution. How can UK companies build successful health initiatives tailored for their diverse workforces? What common obstacles arise and how can they be overcome? Here, we’ll analyse the components of high-impact employee wellness programmes and provide practical guidance on implementing them in work environments.

The Case for Workplace Wellness Programmes

The data supporting investment in workplace health promotion for businesses is compelling and continues to grow. Consider the widespread impact of common lifestyle risks amongst British employees like obesity, smoking, inactivity and poor diet. Millions of adults in the UK are overweight or obese; smoking remains one of the largest causes of preventable illness and premature death. Additionally, soaring rates of work-related stress and mental health problems are estimated to lead to over 35 million lost working days annually.

Implementing well-designed wellness initiatives allows organisations an opportunity to proactively address the root causes of deteriorating worker health. Beyond supporting individual employees, this empowers companies to build an organisational culture that values prevention and sustained healthy lifestyle changes. Research shows the dividends of this commitment are multifaceted, encompassing reduced medical and insurance costs, increased engagement and performance, lower absenteeism and improved recruitment and retention.

For example, VitalityHealth’s 2022 survey of 250 medium-sized UK companies revealed 69% cite productivity levels as a motivating factor to introducing enhanced health and wellbeing policies. These outcomes positively impact the bottom line while setting an organisation apart with a reputation for exceptional support of employee wellbeing. As competition grows fiercer for top UK talent across industries, the differentiator of robust health promotion will only increase in significance and impact.

Key Areas to Promote for Staff Wellbeing

When mapping out an effective workplace wellness strategy, experts recommend focusing on interventions across four vital pillars: physical health, mental health, preventative care and a supportive environment. Successful programmes holistically address major employee lifestyle risks and appropriately support behaviour change.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

Businesses can reduce stress through mindfulness courses, yoga, employee assistance programmes providing free counselling and training to build resilience skills. But there are also other ways that employees can create mindful moments in their day, from working through emotions with creative pursuits to finding pockets of time in the day for breathing exercises that help to lower stress and anxiety.

Smoking Cessation Programmes

Provide resources and incentives to help staff quit smoking through self-guided tools, nicotine replacement options, counselling support or group programmes. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of premature mortality in the UK, and it contributes to a host of health problems that not only impact employees’ health and wellbeing but, from a business perspective, also results in lost productivity and profits from absences.

Healthy Eating and Nutrition

Offer on-site health screenings and free or subsidised nutrition education workshops to help people make better decisions when it comes to their diet. An alternative is to distribute produce boxes, meal plans and discounts for healthier staff canteens.

Fitness and Physical Activities

Consider company gym subsidies, activity challenges with rewards and on-demand workout videos. Managers should also encourage the use of standing desks, walking meetings and cycling support like on-site shower facilities or bike parking.

Preventative Screenings

A useful addition to any workplace wellness scheme is subsidised annual health screenings onsite to support early disease detection and prevention in employees. Often, people struggle to find the time to get a health check, and private screenings are costly, so providing a convenient and more affordable solution is helpful for staff.

A combination of interventions addressing major lifestyle factors, early detection and a culture facilitating long-term healthy changes together builds the foundation of impactful workplace wellbeing success.

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