By, Tony Wood, UK Managing Director, Mercer Marsh Benefits
- The workforce of tomorrow faces increasing pressure to take personal responsibility for their healthcare.
- Employers have a unique role to play in engaging and educating employees about health.
- We are helping organisations to meet the challenge of supporting an ageing and diverse workforce.
Investing in well-being makes business sense. There are many reasons for companies to want to improve the health and well-being of their staff: valuable productivity is lost when employees are unwell or absent from work; the cost of lost productivity through absenteeism and presenteeism is now almost 8 per cent of a company’s payroll. People are working until later in life and with more associated health risks. The future of public provision of healthcare is uncertain at best, and the cost of private healthcare is rising as it becomes more and more expensive to treat sick employees.
Evidence shows that a healthy and engaged workforce is a productive workforce, and forward-thinking employers are making moves to understand — and tackle — the underlying causes of sickness in their organisations.
To get this right, the focus should be on prevention and not simply treatment of ill health. By encouraging and enabling positive behavioural change, employers can support staff to improve and maintain their wellness. This helps prevent the progression of health risks into sickness and advanced conditions that are costly to treat, and minimises the loss of productivity. Simply put, a healthy, productive workforce can help companies get ahead and stay ahead of the competition.
Consider how much of our time we spend at work. Employers are uniquely positioned to bring health to the forefront of workers’ consciousness and facilitate them to make healthy choices at work and play. We work with many organisations that are finding innovative ways of using gamification principles, for example, to raise awareness about wellness and energise and incentivise employees to create healthy habits through challenges and inter-team competitions.
Culture is such an important factor here. To successfully create behavioural change, people need an environment that reinforces their self-motivation and helps them to make small, achievable steps that can be sustained over time. And, when they become unwell, staff need managers that are committed to health and require access to the right healthcare at the right time so that they don’t become unnecessarily distracted by unmanaged health issues.
Mercer can help employers take an integrated approach to improving health and wellbeing in the workplace. Email us for further information and advice on email@example.com
 Britain’s Healthiest Company research (Reilly Associates WPAI methodology).
 Mercer. “Ready to Face the Challenges of an Ageing Workforce?”, available at http://uk.mercer.com/services/ageing-workforce.html, accessed 23 October 2015.