A major survey of over 500 HR decision makers in companies of all sizes across the UK, revealed today by Towergate Health & Protection, shows that a shakeup of how health and wellbeing provision is viewed and implemented is needed to enable employers to offer better support.
Barriers to support
The survey looked at the requirements and barriers for offering health and wellbeing support to employees. Employers identified cost as being the biggest barrier.
Debra Clark, head of specialist consulting at Towergate Health & Protection, says: “Employers perhaps need to look at value for money more than direct costs alone when it comes to health and wellbeing support. It’s also important to consider ‘perceived’ costs – not all support is expensive. Cost can of course present a barrier, but in practice what employers are often really looking for is return on investment. If employees are more engaged and more productive as a result of health and wellbeing support, then employers can see the value of their investment.”
The greatest barriers to employers offering better health and wellbeing support to employees are:
· High costs: 37%
· Administration costs: 21%
· Administration time: 19%
· Too few employees to make it worthwhile or cost effective: 18%
· Lack of interest from employees: 17%
· Difficulty in making support equally accessible to all employees, e.g. home workers: 16%
· Unsure how to provide better support:16%
· Difficulty in effectively communicating support to all employees: 15%
· Too many employees to provide everyone with better support:13%
· There are no barriers:12%
More effective implementation
Employers’ concerns over costs are not just about the expenditure for the benefits themselves but of associated administration fees and cost-effectiveness relating to the number of employees. There are a huge number of ways to assist employees in their health and wellbeing, with options to suit all budgets. There are also ways to reduce administration costs and to ensure support is cost-effective for any number of employees. If associated costs are the issue, then employers should perhaps be looking at new ways to deliver health and wellbeing support, rather than not providing it at all. It’s also important they look at existing policies, and ensure full use is made of all support.
Requirements of support
The research found that flexibility and affordability were the most important factors for employers in choosing to implement an external health and wellbeing programme. However, to see the benefits to the employer as well as the employee, the elements of engagement and employee understanding need to be given greater weight. Health and wellbeing support should be a two-way process, providing feedback on the needs of employees and including risk profiling.
Most important factors to employers in choosing an external health and wellbeing programme:
· Flexibility: 53%
· Affordability: 49%
· Comprehensiveness: 33%
· Engaging: 32%
· Digitally delivered: 30%
· Offers increased understanding of workforce, including profile and needs: 28%
Debra Clark says: “Health and wellbeing support can, and should, be a reciprocal matter. While the main intention is of course to support employees, it should also be positive for the company, not just in supporting their employees well, but also in terms of greater understanding of their staff and increased engagement. The benefits of less absence, quicker returns to work and increased productivity all have a direct and positive impact on bottom line profit too.”