In this hectic world, employees spend an increasing amount of time at work and less time looking after themselves. But with research indicating that healthy employees are more productive, it’s fair to say that investing in employee health is crucial for the wellbeing of a business.
Despite this, industry research reveals that only some 31 per cent of businesses actively use a formal strategic plan for health and wellness, whilst less than half (48 per cent) ensure that their workplace is healthy.
With a staggering 23m working days on average lost each year due to work-related stress and illness, employers should learn to prioritise an investment in employees’ health.
Healthy today, healthy tomorrow
There is some confusion surrounding employee benefits. Many organisations, particularly small to mid-sized businesses, disregard them as inaccessible, deeming them too costly and time-consuming to incorporate. Wrong: there is, indeed, an extensive range of employee benefits available today which enable employees to save money on wellbeing linked outgoings. Furthermore, they are often cost neutral to the company and can even generate savings as a result of tax and National Insurance (NI) reductions.
With people becoming more health conscious, health-related benefits are an increasingly powerful tool for staff engagement. Employee benefits such as discounted health club or gym membership will appeal to a wide range of staff, and can help to alleviate stress.
Cycle-to-work schemes offer numerous benefits aside from the obvious health advantages; not only do they lessen the stress caused by the daily commute, but also enable employees to generate savings of up to £1,000 a year taking into account the reductions on travel and parking costs.
Another benefit that offers advantages for both employer and employee is a holiday purchase scheme. The employee gains extra days off, which could be used to spend more time with their family or go on holiday, whilst employers benefit by reducing their overall annual salary bill and saving the associated NI contributions. This helps employers avoid service or job cuts; again, helping to reduce employee stress caused by potential fear of job loss.
Nottingham City Council (NCC), for example, has successfully generated over £700,000 in savings for the authority through its salary sacrifice scheme, Holidayplus. At the same time it gave employees the opportunity to acquire additional days of annual leave which are paid for monthly during the holiday year. Offering staff the opportunity to gain extra holiday enables them to take a break and recharge their batteries, which can boost efficiency and productivity when they return to work.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are another type of benefit that link to employee wellness, and help employers to support their employees’ overall wellbeing. The service offers access to an employee support helpline, as well as telephone and face-to-face counselling, meaning that staff members who are faced with a potentially debilitating problem have access to sound support. The result is a more content and productive workforce, with less absenteeism as a direct result.
In the end, what is comes down to is this: employee wellness means more profit. With productivity and profitability directly linked to employee health, employers must make employees’ health and wellbeing a priority.
James Malia is head of P&MM Employee Benefits.
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