• Barnett Waddingham
    Barnett Waddingham
  • GUEST BLOG: Wellbeing – The state of being comfortable, healthy or happy at work

    Employers should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees, writes beneficia Director Alan Fergusson…

    Wellbeing is a subject that I could write several articles on, and probably will. It’s an HR hot topic, it could be argued it is a business hot topic, with the number of column inches that it occupies.

    I thought I would start with the definition. There are numerous online dictionaries and this particular choice through up our tag line above: the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.

    A couple of immediate questions around this:

    • Why should employers take the responsibility of this?
    • What’s the point in taking an interest in it?

    On the first question, employers have a duty of care to their employees. This means that they should take all steps which are reasonably possible to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. And further this means ensuring a safe work environment, providing adequate training and feedback on performance, and ensuring that staff do not work excessive hours.

    That’s more a reminder of the basics than anything else, but those basics are at the core of why the responsibility does lie with employers to a large extent. This is coupled with simple logic. The government has worked out over the last few years that the best way to engage with individuals on various subjects has been through the workplace. It didn’t start with Auto Enrolment, but the relative success of that project in terms of numerical participants has signalled a trend to want to engage employees through their employers.

    Recognising that engaging in wellbeing and having a strategy around it can be hugely beneficial for everyone involved. Wellbeing is effectively taking that duty of care to the next level and in answer to the second question, giving it a commercial benefit to a human issue, benefitting all parties during the process.

    The AON 2019 Employee Benefits and Trends Survey Report indicates that only 33% of employers have a budget set aside for a health and wellness programme. Although 19% intend to have one over the next 12-18 months, that still leaves 48% of employers in that survey without a budget. These are inherently larger more complex employers as well, so is it possible that the SME market can get a jump on their rivals for talent by focusing on this area.

    In that same survey, the number of employers who believe they are not responsible for influencing employee health fell from 16% to 2% in the latest year. That really says it all, and if you as an employer are in that 2% then I think you should look at this!

    But here’s the point- why would you be in the 2%? It’s probably obvious to HR that this is needed, but perhaps HR are not resourced enough to tackle it, perhaps the benefits function sits in finance where these sorts of initiatives are all about pounds and pence. Maybe management and leadership within the organisation isn’t behind it, and this is crucial in making any project a success and changing behaviours.

    Making a start is the first move. You’ll never move past the line if you don’t hear the start gun and here are some easy strategies to do that:

    1. Consider the company values, goals and objectives and how these can align with a good wellbeing strategy
    2. Understand what exists within your existing benefit universe- there are so many unused options and features of your existing policies that you can probably use to make a start
    3. Understand what your demographics look like- what’s the age profile, the gender split and what sort of work are people carrying out, and how accessible is the information
    4. Look at your existing data- you have claims on plans which can be analysed, usage of certain benefits such as EAP, sickness and absence rates and reasons for this

    All of this allows you to look at what needs tackled first, and what could be looked at relatively easily. Roll out of a strategy can be gradual and can include many of the benefits I have spoken about in previous insights which are free to the employer, especially around the financial wellbeing space.

    With the announcement today that Vitality through their Essentials plan are now extending some of the benefits of Private Medical to non-insured workers, the market is proven to be continually evolving. Engage with your providers, or even better engage with beneficia and we can work it all out for you!


    Alan Fergusson

    All stories by: Alan Fergusson

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