• Barnett Waddingham
    Barnett Waddingham
  • Guest Blog: Helen Smith: The importance of workplace health and wellbeing

    Group business development director at Benenden, Helen Smith talks about the importance of addressing workplace health and wellbeing, no matter the size of your business

    Having worked with a range of organisations from a whole host of sectors, we at Benenden know that looking after the health and wellbeing of employees is a priority for businesses.

    Because we all spend so much time in our place of work, it’s important that employers foster an environment where we feel happy and healthy.  It also makes good business sense to reduce absenteeism with all its potential to delay projects, upset deadlines and impact on productivity.  Yet recent research carried out by Benenden has shown that UK employees are not always having a positive experience with their workplace health and wellbeing.

    Benenden recently surveyed 2,000 employed people about how they felt about their health at work. The survey revealed that a huge 87% of employees actually blame their workplace for making them ill. Only 23% of those surveyed said they felt healthy at work on a regular basis and respondents also confessed to experiencing regular health issues, with backache (84%) eye strain (42%) and regular migraines (27%) all being part of working life.

    We also found that people felt that it was particularly difficult to try to stay fit and healthy at work. More than half of those in employment (54%) said that continual work commitments stop them from getting to the gym. In addition, three quarters of employees said that their employer didn’t actively encourage them to be healthy and exercise.

    This is something businesses can proactively address through providing facilities such as an on-site gym or discounted memberships, and through promoting health and wellbeing initiatives to encourage staff to look after their health.

    On top of this, providing health cover for employees can also make a huge difference. For many of the businesses we work with, we find that introducing an employee healthcare scheme like Benenden isn’t just about reducing absenteeism, but also about demonstrating to staff that their health and wellbeing is of vital importance to the organisation.

    At Benenden we spoke recently with Mark Jackson, the chief executive of St Richard’s Hospice, which cares for 2,500 patients and their families each year. He knows the staff at St Richard’s have an important job, and in order to do it they also need to take care of themselves. That is why the charity has invested in a Benenden healthcare package which is designed to help businesses look after employees’ health & general wellbeing and reduce absenteeism.

    “The ability to fast track consultant appointments was highly attractive to both staff and employer as a way to reduce long periods of sickness absence,” explains Mark. “It also helps the hospice demonstrate tangibly that our staff are important to us.”

    And it’s not just physical health which should be a focus for businesses. Stress is the UK’s most common cause of long-term absence and the second most common cause of short-term absence after minor illness – according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Absence Management 2016 report. In our own research, half of those surveyed (50%) said they felt depressed at work, with just 40% admitting they are happy in their place of work.

    Therefore we should not undervalue the importance for businesses in ensuring that their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing is looked after. Even though there is a strong commercial case for having a healthy and engaged workforce, our research findings show that some employers are ignoring the impact that an employee’s physical and mental wellbeing has on productivity, absenteeism and employee retention.

    Employers should take steps to promote their staff’s wellbeing in the workplace, no matter the size of their organisation. This can be through simply discouraging a culture of long working hours, introducing healthy initiatives or through investing in a business healthcare package for staff. The positive impact that a focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace has is now well documented and should not be underestimated.

    To find out how Benenden Employee Healthcare can support your business and employees please call 0800 414 8179 or visit benenden.co.uk/for-business


    In brief: what could Benenden Employee Healthcare offer your employees?

    • Diagnosis, consultation and tests – if your employees are experiencing a delay with the NHS, we may be able to help with a fast diagnosis
    • Treatment and surgery – if the NHS waiting list is causing distress we can look to help by funding a quicker appointment
    • Physiotherapy – self-managed or face-to-face physiotherapy may be offered at one of over 700 local Rehabworks accredited clinics.
    • 24-hour GP advice line – round the clock reassurance for your employees knowing they can speak to a qualified UK-based GP day or night
    • Psychological wellbeing 24/7 helpline – providing help on a range of topics including workplace anxiety, relationship problems, stress, etc
    • Financial assistance – if your employee is living with cancer or TB, we may be able to assist with financial hardship experienced during treatment, as a result of the illness, to support the help given by the NHS and other organisations
    • Health concern support – we can help with many different health and lifestyle concerns, including signposting local, specialist support groups
    • Independent care advice – through Grace Consulting we can help assess your current circumstance and help you make an informed decision



    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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