The last 18 months has put health and wellbeing at the top of the agenda for both businesses and employees.
Many businesses have introduced new ways to protect employee health throughout the pandemic, whether through launching new policies or offering wellbeing benefits such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and remote GP services.
Yet still only three in 10 employees say their employer encourages them to look after their health according to a new study by Bupa Health Clinics.
Just under a quarter (24%) say they don’t feel their employer is encouraging when it comes to attending regular appointments. 16% say they have to take health appointments off as holiday or unpaid leave, and 15% have had time off denied even though it was for a health check-up or screening.
Alaana Woods, Commercial Director at Bupa Health Clinics said: “For businesses, looking after employee health is essential. If we do not support the wellbeing of our workforce, how can we expect them to perform at a high-level and reach their business goals and objectives?
“If employees are unable to attend health appointments or regular screenings then health concerns are left for longer, which can later result in long-term absence from the organisation for treatment. For each case of long-term absence, it costs businesses £19,000 – this is huge.
“Regular health screenings have been neglected during the pandemic, for example, there are currently 4.7 million people with cervixes in the UK who haven’t been adequately screened for cervical cancer. So, ensuring employees are able to take time off when needed to attend these screenings can be potentially lifesaving.
“Not only is looking after employee health the right thing to do, but it makes business sense. Those who support employee health and wellbeing, reap the benefits of having a healthy, productive and engaged workforce.”
The study also found that over one in five employees say they’re too busy to take time off for a health appointment.
Alaana Woods adds: “Health always has to come first, and businesses need to allow employees to prioritise their health.
“You’re never ‘too busy’ to go to a health appointment and putting things on hold is only likely to make things worse. Organisations need to normalise the importance of looking after your health and this can be done through three simple ways.”
As a manager, being flexible and approachable to your teams’ needs will help them feel able to open up to you about any health complaints they may have.
Let employees know that if they have a health appointment, they can either start late or finish earlier to support this. If they need time out during the day, let them know that’s ok too and be flexible, allowing working from home for ease. Always check to see how they are, this will be hugely valued.
Education is so important when it comes to normalising conversations about our health. For example, for women going through the menopause, we need everyone to understand symptoms and be able to have a conversation with their employees about what they’re experiencing.
Creating manager and line manager guides can be a great way to do this and sending them out to all the leaders across the organisation. You could also try running an internal session and inviting speakers from outside the organisation in to speak.
Internal campaigns can also be a great way to get all staff members talking about a certain issue. For example, November is Movember, what can you do to raise awareness of men’s health and break down any taboos.
Access to services is key to ensuring employees are getting the support they need. As well as mental health, business also need to look at physical health too. As we move out of the pandemic, more people need support with musculoskeletal problems from the impact of working from home.
Remote services, such as GP or EAPs, can help people access medical advice, wherever they are, 24/7. Something which is hugely beneficial if they’re worried about being ‘too busy’ to take time out.