Sometimes the office can feel similar to a doctor’s surgery waiting room. Whether its people complaining about back pain from their office chairs or the sound of sniffles when the winter flu hits, health complaints at work are unavoidable.
The spread of COVID-19 has brought employee health to the forefront of our minds in a way we never thought possible. As such, it looks like we are entering a period where the office needs to become more intrinsically linked to our health and wellbeing.
Employee wellbeing, in terms of mental and physical health, has long been a concern for businesses. However, with the onset of the pandemic, employers have a responsibility for protecting their employees like never before and it often is the HR department that needs to take the lead on this. In today’s article, we’ll explore how our workplaces have the ability in the (post-)COVID era to evolve into guardians of health to the benefit of employer and employee alike.
Health benefits and why they matter
This shift comes with a major change in employee attitude, as individuals begin to prioritize different types of employee benefits than before. They prefer, for instance, health and lifestyle benefits at work over the traditional rewards of salary, bonus, and vacations. While competitive pay and in-work benefits are still important, when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, the 2018 Global Talent Trends study revealed that job candidates are looking for flexible working opportunities and a commitment to their health and wellbeing.
This makes health-conscious employees sound like a bit of a hassle for a business. Far from being a burden for employers, though, improving employee health – for instance through an employee wellness program – should be seen as a smart business decision. For example, healthy workers are much less likely to be absent from work – employees with healthy BMIs take 52% fewer days a year off sick and often get back to work quicker after they’ve been ill. It’s also likely that proactive monitoring of employee health will help prevent long-term sickness in the future.
As importantly for organizations, caring for employees can increase their motivation at work. The 2017 BMG Research Employee Panel found that there was an increase in engagement of 31% from employees who believe their employer cared about their wellbeing. All of this means that health and wellbeing measures should be seen as key for running a productive business and avoiding a high staff turnover.
One way that health and wellbeing can be monitored is though devices which display your health data. The COVID- 19 pandemic has heightened the digital health revolution in the UK, with an increasing number of people using health and fitness apps. This trend has only intensified the health consciousness of the workforce, increasing the pressure for employers to look after the health of their staff and provide them with what they need to be successful in both their professional and personal lives.
How can organizations help?
This idea of a healthy, happy workforce sounds great, but how do companies go about achieving it?
The workplace is uniquely positioned to improve the health and wellbeing of employees. Pre-lockdown, it’s likely that most of us spent the majority of our time in the office, with British workers for instance estimated to spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over the course of their lifetime.
Enlightened UK employers such as Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens, and the BBC are taking advantage of this by embracing a holistic approach to health monitoring and tracking that goes far beyond the traditional offerings of gym memberships and cycle to work schemes.
These companies have embraced digital health and wellbeing monitoring to provide employees with precise physical monitoring of vital health metrics such as their BMI, body fat level, blood pressure, heart age, and more. This in-depth data can help to inform much healthier lifestyle decisions by improving understanding of personal physical health, and the effects a healthier diet or new fitness regime can have on it. By embracing and normalizing the digital health trend gripping the nation, employers can provide workers with information that was previously only attainable from a drawn-out trip to the doctor’s surgery.
Now, employers can provide digital tracking and analytics on-demand, allowing employees to visualize key health and wellbeing statistics before they develop a health issue. With research showing that 61% of employees who monitor their health in this way make healthy lifestyle changes, providing this service will ultimately help avert health emergencies and lead to a healthier and happier workforce.
On a final note
Major companies are beginning to embrace a culture where they take responsibility for staff welfare. By providing medically accurate information in the workplace, staff can track critical health metrics daily (hourly if they want to), as opposed to ignoring it until an issue occurs. In the (post-) COVID-19 era, when staff return to the office with health at the forefront of their minds, this will be the only option for employers.
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